The Horgan government’s failure to protect at-risk old-growth forests is forcing BC citizens to take real action themselves.
The Old Growth Revylution blockade was recently visited by an RCMP officer (Photo by Sadie Parr)
THE MOVEMENT TO STOP THE DESTRUCTION of BC’s old-growth forests by blockading logging roads—as practiced by Vancouver Island’s Rainforest Flying Squad—is spreading. A group of Revelstoke-area citizens, calling themselves Old Growth Revylution, has established a blockade on a logging road beside Bigmouth Creek north of Revelstoke. The group is blocking access to a newly constructed logging road leading to three planned cutblocks in the pristine Argonaut Valley. The cutblocks would be logged under a licence granted by BC Timber Sales (BCTS), a division of the ministry of forests.
Not only is the spread of the movement a vote of no confidence in Premier John Horgan’s vague promises of future 2-year logging deferrals on old forest, the engagement with a BCTS-led logging operation opens a new and interesting front in the citizen-led battle against old-growth forest destruction. I will come back to this development later.
A view of logging of old-growth forest in Bigmouth Valley. The Revylution wants to protect Argonaut Valley ecosystems from this destruction. (Photo by Sadie Parr)
Several ENGOs, including Wildsight, Echo Conservation, the Wilderness Committee and Valhalla Wilderness Society, have been campaigning to protect the pristine Argonaut Valley. The valley is in the Inland Temperate Rainforest, a globally-unique ecosystem under heavy pressure by the logging industry. Most of the valley has been mapped under Canada’s Species At Risk Act as critical habitat for Mountain Caribou, one of BC’s most endangered species. Last December, the BC ministry of forests initially responded to these concerns with a statement noting “the ministry suspended planned harvesting operations in the Argonaut drainage to allow for further assessments around how harvesting activities might impact caribou in this area. This assessment is ongoing and no further timber harvest activities will occur in the area while the assessment is underway.”
BCTS then withdrew 11 of 14 cutblocks planned for the valley. But the most current BCTS mapping shows it is now planning five cutblocks in the valley, three of which are scheduled to be auctioned as a single sale between October 1 and December 31 of this year. BCTS estimates about 26,000 cubic metres of merchantable logs would be removed from those three blocks.
BCTS had a road built into the valley in 2020, and more recent roadbuilding prompted formation of the Old Growth Revylution. The Revylution blockaders want the entire Argonaut Valley protected. Virginia Thompson, a member of Revylution, told FOCUS, “The blockade is also in support of the Fairy Creek action and for the implementation of the recommendations of the Old Growth Review Panel. That includes the panel’s recommendation to immediately defer all at-risk old-growth ecosystems while the recommendations for a paradigm shift in forestry can be implemented to save what little of old-growth ecosystems are left in BC. This does not mean the bogus deferrals which were made in September of 2020. It means real, meaningful deferrals. Otherwise the old growth will be gone by the time government finishes talking about it.”
Old-growth cedar removed to build a logging road in the area (Photo by Eddie Petryshen)
The blockade will also affect access to another block of old-growth forest just outside the valley that has already been sold by BCTS to Revelstoke’s Downie Timber. Wildsight’s Eddie Petryshen told FOCUS that the Downie block “is imminently threatened by logging.” In an email, Petryshen wrote, “This block, in my opinion, actually contains some of the highest value old growth of the remaining blocks as it’s valley bottom and contains very large cedars.” Revylution’s Thompson said the forest defenders had been in contact with a representative of Downie regarding the block.
The Revylution has strong support of area First Nations, including the Okanagan, Splatsin (Secwepemcúl̓ecw) and Sinixt. Thompson told FOCUS that a ceremony held on July 11 at the blockade included representatives of each of these First Nations.
In a press release issued before the ceremony, Splatsin Chief Wayne Christian noted: “We will be conducting a ceremony to protect the old-growth forest, but also to protect the public who have decided to block access to critical old-growth habitat for our relatives the Caribou.”
At the ceremony, Christian called for members of his nation to come to the blockade.
The Splatsin, Okanagan and Ktunaxa Nation all have forestry consultation and revenue sharing agreements with the ministry of forests. It is unknown which nation, or nations, the BC government is consulting regarding the Argonaut Valley.
A view of the upper Argonaut Valley (Photo by Eddie Petryshen)
This all creates an interesting situation for the ministry of forests. If the Revylution blockaders are as determined as the Fairy Creek blockaders, they will likely be able to block access to the Argonaut Valley. Facing that likelihood, what logging company would want the uncertainty, bad publicity and loss of reputation that would accompany a bid to cut the pristine valley’s forests? This is quite unlike the situation at Fairy Creek and the Caycuse Valley on southern Vancouver Island, where Teal Cedar Ltd, dependent on cutting old-growth forest to feed its Surrey mills, can’t easily walk away from its own TFL.
If the Revylution blockade is successful at deterring a bid on the Argonaut Valley blocks, that strategy could be copied across BC wherever BCTS is planning to cut old-growth forest. BCTS sells the right to cut Crown-owned forest through competitive auction. It must publicize the blocks it plans to auction well before the auction date. It’s now possible for old-growth forest defenders to identify old forests at risk of being logged by BCTS, and then develop a plan to discourage bids on those blocks before they are sold. The ministry faces a new and serious challenge to its industry-friendly taxpayer-funded mismanagement of BC’s forests.
To complicate matters, on July 13 a forest fire broke out high above Bigmouth Creek, about three kilometres upstream from the mouth of Argonaut Creek. It’s going to be a long, hot, ground-breaking summer.
In his own response to the climate and biodiversity crises, David Broadland has narrowed his research and writing to the critically-endangered forests of BC.