Opponents to Island Timberlands’ harvest in Lot 450 are chalking up a victory after a blockade of forestry equipment has resulted in a temporary halt to logging.
Nine women decided to take direct action and block a feller buncher parked in a cut block of the company’s private managed forest land in Lot 450 early Tuesday morning, May 19. Their action pushed the forestry company to withdraw the machinery and move it out of the area.
The women issued a media statement later in the day.
“After Powell River residents discovered trees marked for cutting with active bird nests in them, a group of women decided to protect trees containing nests,” the statement read. “The group is positioning themselves between the feller buncher and the trees effectively stopping Island Timberlands’ plan to continue clear-cutting.”
The women, as well as those standing on the picket line where Joyce Avenue and the pole line intersect, are asking Island Timberlands to halt logging until the end of nesting season and publicly release a cut plan that ensures nests and riparian zones around McFall, McGuffie and Wys Creek are respected.
“The community is not against logging but wants to see the precious urban forest which is home to hundreds of species including birds, bears, and cougars selectively logged in a way that preserves its ecological integrity,” the statement read.
Independent journalist Courtney Harrop, who embedded herself at the blockade, helped the group document the 24-hour protest with photos and video.
They met at the Island Timberlands’ feller buncher at 6 am and waited to see if an operator would be coming to start work that morning. Harrop said that the operator was quite surprised to see the women standing around the machine with their banner.
After it was clear that the women were not leaving, the operator left and the RCMP arrived to inform the women that the police had received a complaint, Harrop said. The police came in to talk with the women and advised them that they are on private land and they should not do anything which damages Island Timberlands’ property, she added. Police left without making any arrests.
An operations manager from the forestry company arrived to speak with the protestors, but left after realizing that their blockade would continue.
“Throughout the day there was a lot of community support,” Harrop said, adding that food and water was brought to the site.
Some of the protesters decided to hold the space overnight and camp out there. They were greeted by more supporters the next morning, Harrop added.
The forest company manager returned Wednesday morning to tell the group that the company would be loading logs they had already cut and requested that the feller buncher be allowed to be removed from the area, Harrop said.
“As a measure of good faith and to show that the people are reasonable and willing to negotiate, the group decided to let the machine get taken out,” she said.
The manager told the group of protestors that the company would halt logging until they had the assessment from their own biologist.
Harrop said she did not know when they expected that report, but she said that people “are not taking their eyes off Island Timberlands.”
Harrop’s video can be seen online.
Citizen group coordinates pole line picket
Timber company not willing to discuss details with public
Island Timberlands, the company engaged in timber harvest in Lot 450, is not planning to hold any public forums to discuss its activities on its private managed forest land (PMFL), but citizens concerned about the logging are stepping up their efforts.
Sierra Malaspina, the local Sierra Club BC chapter, wrote to the forestry company late April after harvesting began on the urban forest. The group asked Island Timberlands to temporarily pause its harvest to give the wider community an opportunity to provide input and raise its concerns with the company around possible loss of bird and wildlife habitat between McFall and McGuffie creeks and loss of valued trails.
“The citizens of Powell River expect Island Timberland to immediately stop logging in Lot 450,” said Wes Bingham an executive with the local group in a Sierra Club BC media release. “This is an area that people call home. The company should follow its policy, share detailed information about their plans, hear our concerns and seek to address them.”
Morgan Kennah, manager of sustainable timberlands and community affairs for Island Timberlands, responded by saying “[the company] is not considering hosting a public forum to discuss the details of our activities on our private forest lands at this time. Unfortunately we do not share reports and plans of our activities widely with the general public.”
“The conflict with Island Timberlands in Powell River shows the serious problems caused by lack of meaningful regulation for logging on private land,” said Jens Wieting, forest and climate campaigner with Sierra Club BC. “Communities are experiencing fewer and fewer benefits and more and more negative impacts, from loss of clean water to the loss of tourism opportunities.”
In response to criticism that the City of Powell River was not doing enough to hold the forest company accountable to the community, it released a fact sheet to provide clarification on the tree harvest, Monday, May 11.
The fact sheet states that the harvest is occurring on Island Timberlands’ PMFL, which is regulated by the provincial government, and that the city “does not have the authority to require the production of records, cannot enter onto PMFL property for the purposes of inspection of the PMFL Act, Wildlife Act or critical wildlife habitat, nor can city council issue stop work orders.”
PMFL is governed by the Managed Forest Council and subject to the Private Managed Forest Land Act and regulations. Those are provincial government statutes and jurisdiction, the statement read.
The clarification goes on to explain that Island Timberlands has a timber reservation agreement to harvest the timber on two properties within Lot 450 owned by PRSC Land Developments Ltd.
While the city is a part owner in the land development partnership, the statement asks the public to contact PRSC managers for more information firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Friday, May 15, biologist Andrew Bryant took Councillor Rob Southcott on a tour of the Lot 450 PMFL. Bryant has been instrumental in helping find active bird nests in the area. As of Monday, May 18, he had documented and reported 30 active nesting sites to Island Timberlands.
Finding active nesting sites takes patience. Bryant can watch a nest for hours on various visits to determine activity. He pointed to a snag, perhaps six metres in height. Three holes are evident. Cavity nests created by woodpeckers are abundant in the area. “There has been a lot of activity,” Bryant said of the snag. “I had two northern flickers, two red-breasted nuthatches, and a red-bellied sapsucker simultaneously on that snag.”
Save Lot 450, the group responsible to organizing marches and rallies on the issue, has coordinated a picket line across one entrance to the pole line and welcomes the public to participate. Organizers have stated that this is not a blockade as Lot 450 can still be accessed near the Timberlane track and from a service road at Catalyst Paper Corporation. The picket line began Tuesday, May 19, and continues 9 am to 7 pm to Friday, May 22, on Joyce Avenue at the pole line.