Roughly 100 people gathered around a huge chalk circle in downtown Revelstoke on May 30. The ring was to visualize the largest known tree in Canada — the Cheewhat Giant in Pacific Rim National Park — at a diametre of 6.1 metres.
The gathering was a rally to protect old growth forests, in particular in Fairy Creek on Vancouver Island.
That section of coastal rainforest on southern Vancouver Island, northeast of Port Renfrew, has some of the largest trees in Canada, including the largest Douglas fir in the world at a diametre of 4.2 metres. The forest is also home to a host of endangered species including Western screech owls, Northern Goshawk and Northern Red-legged frogs.
The Teal-Jones Group has government approval to log different sections of Fairy Creek. Since last summer, protesters have maintained a series of moving blockades to try and stop the company from logging the region. An injunction granted by the BC Supreme Court in April allowed the RCMP to remove protesters. Arrests began in May with 55 people arrested on May 25 alone.
While B.C. is home to 57 million hectares of forests, an independent study published last year found that less than one per cent of it is intact old growth.
The provincial government defines trees on the coast that are 250 years old to be old growth, for the Revelstoke region it’s 140 years. Some of the trees within Fairy Creek are more than 1,500 years old.
One of Premier John Horgan’s fall campaign promises was to protect more old growth forests and transform the forest industry to be more sustainable.
“He has done almost nothing. The ancient trees continue to fall all across British Columbia,” said Emma Atkinson, organizer of the rally in Revelstoke.
New mapping data released recently by the Wilderness Committee indicate the province has approved significantly more old-growth logging over the past 12 months — by 43 per cent — than it did the previous year.
“We are here to say no more,” said Atkinson.
During the rally, she called Horgan’s office and the 100 or so people in the crowd left him a voicemail.
“STOP OLD GROWTH LOGGING,” they yelled, several times.
Atkinson said she is not anti-logging, but would like the industry to be more sustainable and to protect the dwindling old growth that remains.
While the rally did focus on Fairy Creek, several people said old growth is also threatened locally.
Councillor Tim Palmer addressed the crowd, saying local government can make a difference and help lobby the province for change.
For example, the community owns the Revelstoke Community Forest Corporation (RCFC), a local logging company. In 2019, the company gave the city $700,000 in dividends.
Part of the company’s tenure includes old growth forest. The 10-year allowable annual cut for RCFC — which governs how much timber the company can harvest — was renewed this spring to be the same as the previous decade at 90,000 cubic metres.
“Don’t let the myth that local governments can’t make a difference. They can,” he said.
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