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A little place called Clayoquot Sound

Vancouver Island's Clayoquot Sound. Manitoba's boreal forests. The Central Avalon Peninsula of Newfoundland. These picturesque locales have served as the battlegrounds over the controversy of clearcutting — the logging practice that strips a forest bare by cutting every single tree down. On one side are the environmentalists. On the other, logging companies. In the middle are native people. The fate of Canada's old-growth forests and the forestry industry as a whole rests in the balance in the 'war of the woods.'

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An environmental powder keg is ignited when B.C. Premier Mike Harcourt allows logging on Clayoquot Sound. Harcourt calls for the axe to fall on half of the 262, 000 hectare area of the costal temperate rainforest located on Vancouver Island. In response, radicals known as eco-warriors vow to block the project by setting up blockades and spiking trees. In this CBC Radio clip, As It Happens talks to moderate environmentalist Vicky Husband, chair of the Sierra Club of Western Canada in Victoria.

In a moment of true foresight, Husband predicts that Clayoquot Sound will become a poster child of the environmental movement in the 90s. "I think we're going to see more of a global campaign," she predicts. "The world is watching, there is a spotlight on Clayoquot Sound." It isn't long before the Friends of Clayoquot Sound and Greenpeace are joined by protesters from around world who join the fight to protect the forests. The 'Summer of Protest' begins.
. Clayoquot (population 7,848) is situated on Vancouver Island's west coast just north of Tofino. The Clayoquot Sound rainforest is considered one of the most rare in the world, covering less than 0.2 per cent of the Earth's land surface.
. The Friends of Clayoquot Sound is a grassroots environmental organization founded in 1979. According to its mission statement, the group is dedicated "to the protection and defence of the ancient forest, fish, wildlife, air, land and water of Clayoquot Sound."

. Harcourt's announcement was viewed as a compromise by the NDP provincial government and logging companies such as MacMillan Bloedel. It believed by protecting 33 per cent of the forests, it would be able to appease environmentalists. Groups like the Sierra Club argued that Harcourt's decision allowed for the logging of 85 per cent of the productive forest in Clayoquot Sound.

. Tree-spiking is a controversial tactic used by eco-warriors and radicals to try to thwart logging. It involves the hammering of metal nails into trees in order to damage chainsaws and mill sawblades, injuring loggers in the process. While Greenpeace and the Sierra Club have denounced tree spiking, other groups such as Earth First! and the Earth Liberation Front openly admit to practicing it.

. Immediately after Harcourt's announcement, environmentalists staged daily protests and set up road blockades, grinding logging to a halt. The protests went on for months with protesters ending up being jailed and fined. By the end of the year, 856 people were arrested.

. On July 15, 1993, Australian rock band Midnight Oil performed at one of the blockades to help raise global awareness about the clearcutting controversy in Clayoquot Sound. Later that month, they joined Daniel Lanois, the Tragically Hip, Hothouse Flowers and Crash Vegas to record Land. The proceeds of the single, written by Jim Moginie and Rob Hirst of Midnight Oil, went to the legal defence of arrested protesters.
Medium: Radio
Program: As It Happens
Broadcast Date: April 13, 1993
Guest(s): Vicky Husband
Host: Alan Maitland
Interviewer: Michael Enright
Duration: 7:33

Last updated: November 9, 2012

Page consulted on November 20, 2014

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