Vancouver Island, Canada – A major battle to save the last tropical rain forest on the island of Vancouver, Canada is in full swing, as police and forest rangers engage cats and mice to drive through dense jungles.
The Rainforest Flying Squad is seeking to stop logging companies from taking over the old trees in the Fairy Creek forest, a region with a region of ancient British Columbia (BC).
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) has arrested more than 150 people in the past three weeks in a bid to force a law passed in March by Teal-Jones Group, one of the largest logging companies, to remove forest rangers.
But this did not deter hundreds of hundreds of freedom fighters, who had flocked to the west coast of Canada to try to save the vast rainforest forests, which are in short supply of western red cedar and yellow cedar trees, some of which are said to be between 800 and 2,000 years old.
“I’m telling you that from Monday all the camps are still open,” said Saul Arbess, a cultural scientist in Victoria, BC, who has been involved in blockades since its inception last August. Freedom fighters live in various locations where the Rainforest Airlines has decided to ban loggers from cutting down trees.
They are considered to be former to the BC government if they are over 250 years old, measuring 25 meters (82 feet) and measuring 3.5 meters (12 feet) in diameter. Trees form dense tropical rain forests, mountains where endangered species such as the Western screech owl and a combination of firs and hemlocks for decades.
“These trees are universal in nature and are the oldest in the world. And if you cut them down, you’re not just destroying the environment, you’re on the verge of extinction,” Arbess told Al Jazeera. “That’s the struggle.”
The company is defending the system
Teal-Jones Group has a 46 License of Farm, which includes the Fairy Creek area. The permit covers 3,828 hectares (9459 acres) of old forest; and one of the last waterless feet on Vancouver Island.
The company, which acquired logging and milling rights in the BC Province in 2004, has the potential to raise $ 20m by cutting 200 hectares of trees here. Large-scale trees are admired by the industry for their “solid wood” – smooth and suitable for things like shingles and ornaments.
In an email to Al Jazeera, a representative of Teal-Jones said he has the right to harvest in an area where there are disputes. “We are a profit maker. We do not sell prices or services but we grind all the timber we cut here in the region, using 100% of each block,” he says.
“Teal Jones has a decades-long history of links to the First Nations, sustainable forest management, and innovation in BC. The company plants more than one million trees annually.”
In a statement to The Canada Press, Gerrie Kotze, vice-president of Teal Cedar’s, a supporter of the Teal-Jones Group, also said the company’s plans for the region were “unelected”. Kotze said the company is only planning to harvest “small areas above water” – about 200 hectares (494 acres) – and that most of Fairy Creek’s water resources are not available for deforestation.
But foresters, about 15 years old, are chasing chains and tying themselves to the ground and settling in trees to block intruders, while other helpers are interested in being arrested for what they believe is a change. “Old natural habitats make up less than 1 percent (860,000 hectares) of the remaining BC forests,” Greenpeace he says.
‘Holy spiritual sanctuary’
The area in question is located in the Pacheedaht and Ditidaht First Nations, which are located between the colonial, elected leadership that appears to be in favor of deforestation – and the traditional leadership that has opposed it.
“My grandfather asked us for the Ferry Lake area, with two rivers there, and our spiritual sanctuary,” Pacheedaht Director Bill Jones, 81, told Al Jazeera. “If the trees are cut down, I think this will be the end of our hope of reviving our old culture, which died in the jungle – that we will never have a way to end our original, spiritual relationship.”
Jones survived a notorious Canadian crime residential schools, the dictatorship that the government instituted from the late 19th century to 1996. Indian children were forcibly removed from their homes and sent to school, where they were often subjected to all kinds of violence.
Last week, Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation announced its discovery many unknown graves with remains of 215 Indian children at Kamloops Indian Residential School, as well as in BC, inciting international outrage of the persecution of the Indians.
Jones likened their leaps from their culture and spirituality to home schools and other violent crimes. He said he was tired of weeping over all that was lost, and he did not want the last of his people to be taken away.
“I call this, you know, where they set the trap, the government. We have no money, we are in debt. Even the elected Chief Jeff Jones is part of a coalition with the government and Teal Jones, but we make little profit and no longer promote forest management,” Jones said.
BC financial companies are the cornerstone of the economy. It provides 100,000 direct and indirect employment and contributes approximately $ 13bn to regional GDP, according to 2019 reports and BC Council of Forest Industries.
Prime Minister John Horgan has pledged to protect the old forests during the post-election elections, but his government will continue to issue permits to harvest the trees. He also said his management plan would protect the old growth, but human rights activists are rejecting this as inadequate.
Arbess said activists “are calling on the government to suspend it, to change it”.
“Also, we are not being criticized for cutting down trees. We are not against loggers, and logging families. There are traditions that are found in those families. We want this to continue, but we want it to be a sustainable activity in the wild, “Arbess said.
A local worker who asked not to be identified for fear of losing his job told Al Jazeera that he recognized him as an environmentalist, but was ill because he was not allowed to work. He said all the trees should be cut down because they are just sprouts.
“A 2,000 year price is just a price,” he said.
‘Planet wants forest’
As the war raged on, the First Nations Third informed the region on June 5 of a request “to reduce the two-year-old trees in Fairy Creek and Central Walbran areas”. Ditidaht, Huu-ay-aht, and Pacheedaht say this will give them time to “plan” for the regions and come “in addition to the idea of Huu-ay-aht First Nations to prevent deforestation in its territories”.
In an e-mail, Horgan’s office told Al Jazeera that “these countries are the ones that have the best interests of their communities in place. That’s where the monarchs are approaching us”.
“We are also aware that the three countries will continue to use their national security systems in a secure environment. And we are pleased to discuss these issues with the United Nations in a respectful manner.”
The Teal-Jones Group also said it acknowledges that it operates in the Indigenous Peoples area and works with natural resources. “We will follow up on what was said today, and look forward to discussions with Pacheedaht, Ditidaht, and Huu-ay-aht First Nations as they develop plans for Integrated Resource Forest Stewardship Plans,” the company’s letter said.
In a statement issued on June 4 in the Vancouver Sun, the Minister of Environment, Lands, Environment and Rural Development stated that the region is suspending old harvest permits. “Pacheedaht, which owns a factory, and the state has agreed that harvesting will not take place at Fairy Creek while Pacheedaht develops its own management system,” Katrine Conroy wrote, adding that the government expects more pruning protests to be announced in the summer.
Meanwhile, human rights activists are flocking to the jungle hoping to save the old trees.
For a few months, the 69-year-old environmentalist who goes by the name of Bluebird has been traveling from his hometown of Victoria with his wife to support the Rainforest Environmental Management Team.
“The world needs more forests. “When you feel the power of the old jungle here, the air, it gives you the strength to walk in it,” the Bluebird told Al Jazeera from the main camp run by the opposition. Tears welled up in his eyes, adding that the forest was “the best way to make carbon.”
“We don’t need to build a carbon storage system, we have to save the forests; they absorb carbon and store it there for thousands of years. We cut them straight and turn them into air outlets. Yes, I am ready to be arrested. ”