Although three southwestern Vancouver Island First Nations called for a halt to both old-growth logging and related protests on their territory in a declaration made over the weekend, activists say they will stand their ground at the Fairy Creek watershed.
The Rainforest Flying Squad called the Hišuk ma c̕awak Declaration by the Huu-ay-aht, Ditidaht and Pacheedaht First Nations “a welcome step in the right direction,” but don’t believe it goes far enough.
The declaration called for a two-year deferral of all old-growth logging on the traditional territories of the First Nations, including Tree Farm Licence 46, on which the disputed Fairy Creek watershed sits. The provincial government and Teal Jones, which owns the logging rights for TFL 46, agreed to abide by the declaration.
The RFS and Pacheedaht elder Bill Jones said they are awaiting more details about the declaration and “remain concerned that the declaration allows for the status quo of old-growth logging to continue unabated across the territory.”
“No, we must not stand down, as all First Nations are locked into unfair contracts that tie their hands,” Elder Bill Jones stated.
In addition to calling for the end to old-growth logging on their territories, the three First Nations governments also said that no third parties have the right to speak on their behalf.
“Moreover, for third parties to be welcome in their ḥahahuułi [traditional territories], they must respect their governance and stewardship, sacred principles, and right to economically benefit from the resources within the ḥahahuułi,” read a statement on the Huu-ay-aht First Nations official website.
The RFS is demanding the protection of the entire Fairy Creek watershed, and not only the old growth that the Hišuk ma c̕awak Declaration addresses.
“Any deferral on Fairy Creek MUST include the entire 2,080 hectare Fairy Creek Rainforest, not just the old growth within the watershed,” the group said. “This would include protecting the hundreds of hectares of at-risk old-growth adjacent to the Fairy Creek watershed in both Granite Creek and in the area known as the ‘2000 Road.’ We hope that the final agreement between the Pacheedaht and provincial government will reflect this. Likewise we are calling for deferral of logging across the entire special management zone in the Central Walbran.”
The three First Nations will still permit second- and third-growth logging in a number of areas within their traditional territories, and the RFS is concerned about those areas as well as another 1.3 million hectares of at-risk old growth identified by the Sierra Club of BC.
“The province must come to the table with conservation financing and economic alternatives for First Nations, and create a just transition to a second growth industry,” the RFS statement said. “Until these things happen, at the invitation of Elder Bill Jones, the Rainforest Flying Squad will continue to stand our ground to defend our last ancient forests.