Revelstoke residents rally for old growth forests

Residents gathered in Grizzly Plaza in Revelstoke on May 30 for a protest supporting old growth forest preservation.

Rally organizer Emma Atkinson reads a poem to the crowd of about 100 people. Photo: Bailey Gingras-Hamilton

About 100 people gathered at Grizzly Plaza on the morning of May 30 to show solidarity with the Fairy Creek blockade protesters.

The organizer of the protest event, Emma Atkinson, participated in the Caycuse Camp blockade in late April before coming to Revelstoke for work.

“I was sitting at home, feeling frustrated. Seeing my friends getting arrested, and seeing blockades being broken down,” Atkinson said. She channeled her frustration into action, and decided to organize the Revelstoke rally.

“If there’s anywhere that a second wave of this movement should be birthed, it’s here.”

Watch: Watch a video of the May 30, 2021 protest in Grizzly Plaza here:

Revelstoke’s roots in the old growth movement

The old growth forests surrounding Revelstoke play an important role in the town’s tourism economy and overall environment. However, the forest industry is a significant employer here.

In 2019, one in 25 people in British Columbia were employed in the forestry industry. In the Kootenays, seven per cent of jobs are in this field.

That is why Atkinson emphasizes the rally is not anti-logging, but instead pro-sustainable logging. This includes implementing second and third growth harvesting practices.

Many species in the Revelstoke area rely on old growth forests for their survival. For over fifteen years, Kelsey Furk studied the caribou population in the region.

“There is no better evidence that we are not managing [old growth forests] sustainably than the fact that caribou are continuing to decline at a very fast rate,” Furk explains.

“The bigger picture is we need an old-growth strategy all over the province,” says Furk. “They support a robust and diverse biodiversity that we require for our health and our happiness.”

Giles Shearing and his daughter channel their artistic energy before the rally. Photo: Bailey Gingras-Hamilton

Looking into local solutions

The Fairy Creek blockades have generated controversy over logging practices in British Columbia.

Much of the criticism is pointed at John Horgan and the New Democratic Party (NDP). During the snap election last October, the NDP promised a revised old growth forest protection plan.

Read about the BC NDP’s pre-election old-growth protection promises here:

B.C. announces 40,000-hectare Incomappleux Valley harvesting ‘deferral’ as part of old-growth forest plan

With such a turn out at the Revelstoke rally, local residents proved their interest in protecting these forests.

Despite forestry management being within provincial jurisdiction, Revelstoke City Councillor Tim Palmer says that action can be initiated at a municipal level.

“We can talk about the forest, but also the community values,” Palmer says.

“We can have enormous impact collectively if council starts lobbying, especially if we start lobbying with other communities.”

What are the Fairy Creek blockades?

The Fairy Creek ancient growth rainforest is located in southeastern Vancouver Island, near Port Renfrew. When a new logging road was spotted in August, tensions began.

This area is registered as a Tree Farm License 46 (TFL) zone. Although parts are protected through the Carmanah Walbran provincial park, there are sections of intact old-growth forest that are available for logging.

In general, trees are considered old growth in B.C. when they are over 250 years old.

Lately, B.C. RCMP have received criticism over their treatment of protesters. Over the past two weeks, 137 people have been arrested. Last Tuesday, 55 people were arrested at the camp Atkinson participated in.

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Bailey Gingras-Hamilton is a recent graduate of the Mount Royal University Journalism program, where she developed an interest in current events and social issues. As a chronically curious individual, she enjoys exploring new places, cuisines, and cultures.