Fairy Creek activists cut 18 trees to block vehicle access, RCMP say
Statement from activists says 'some small trees' were cut to block road near Waterfall Camp
Mounties in British Columbia say protesters breaching an injunction against blockades set up to prevent old-growth logging on southern Vancouver Island cut down 18 trees.
In a news release issued late Saturday, police say RCMP Chief Supt. John Brewer found the trees had been cut with chainsaws and laid across a road to block vehicle access.
The release says one person was also found to be smoking a cigarette surrounded by dry and tinder forest.
Brewer said in the statement he is "gravely concerned" that the felling of trees and smoking in areas where wildfires could start will endanger the safety of officers and activists.
The Fairy Creek Watershed area protesters known as the Rainforest Flying Squad said Monday demonstrators only cut second-growth trees, which are younger and smaller than old-growth trees.
"Protesters said they did cut some small trees down on Saturday to block a road near Waterfall Camp at Fairy Creek," the statement read. "Their action slowed the RCMP from reaching forest defenders who were chained into structures."
As for fire risk, the group said it has reminded demonstrators not to smoke outside of cars. It also said there has been a "strict fire safety protocol" in place since June.
"When [activists] need to cut wood, they use hand saws or battery-operated chainsaws to reduce fire risk."
Pacheedaht Elder Bill Jones said "it's common practice" to cut down second-growth trees — known as "dog hair" — from the sides of the road.
"They're only cutting on the right of way, which will be cut again anyway," Jones wrote in a statement.
"It's not really something to make a mountain out of. It's not a threat to the ecology. It's OK with me. It's not an offence to me, or anyone. There's miles and miles of second growth on rights of way that's simply mowed down," he added.
The RCMP also said 16 people were arrested, including one for allegedly assaulting a police officer, bringing the total number of people arrested to 494.
Last month, the B.C. government approved the request of three Vancouver Island First Nations and deferred logging of about 2,000 hectares of old-growth forest in the Fairy Creek and central Walbran areas for two years, but the protests are continuing.
The Rainforest Flying Squad say very little of the best old-growth forest remains in B.C., and the deferrals fall short of protecting what's left.
With files from CBC News