British Columbia

Mushroom pickers win temporary injunction against logging in Sunshine Coast forest

Whether they’ll have a chance to make that permanent depends on their ability to pay up to $250,000 in potential damages.

Prohibition will be lifted Jan. 15 if activists can't prove they have funds to pay potential damages

Logging began in the locally nicknamed Chanterelle Forest on Dec. 17. ( Elphinstone Logging Focus)

A trio of Sunshine Coast mushroom pickers have secured a temporary halt on logging plans for a favourite plot of forest, but whether they'll have a chance to make that permanent depends on their ability to pay up to $250,000 in potential damages.

Last week, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Lisa Warren extended a temporary injunction against logging in the so-called Chanterelle Forest, a section of the Sunshine Coast Community Forest known in the local community for its namesake fungi.

The chanterelle enthusiasts behind the injunction are Hans Penner, Laurie Annette Bloom and Ross Muirhead, three anti-logging activists with a history of illegal blockades against forestry operations on the Sunshine Coast.

Muirhead told CBC News he was pleased the injunction would continue to stand against Sechelt Community Projects Inc.'s (SCPI) logging plans for the Chanterelle Forest.

"It's been known for 20-30 years as one of the optimal growing sites for a number of mushrooms, mostly typically winter and summer chanterelles," he said.

"Also, it's an important habitat for the Roosevelt elk … They use it for winter habitat."

The Chanterelle Forest is nicknamed for its namesake fungi. (Carolina de Ryk/CBC)

The activists, founders of Elphinstone Logging Focus, are asking for a judicial review of the forests ministry's decision to grant a cutting permit for the 25.3 hectares of Crown land known as EW28.

They first obtained a temporary injunction on Dec. 22, suspending logging that had been going on for five days.

Warren's judgment extends that to Jan. 15. She wrote that the mushroom pickers had raised serious questions about whether enough of the community was properly consulted before the forest was opened to logging.

Paying damages

If Muirhead, Bloom and Penner hope to hold off logging until the case is heard, they must produce proof by Jan. 15 that they have the ability to pay any damages that might be awarded against them if they lose their bid for a judicial review.

SCPI estimates it will cost $250,000 to delay logging until the anticipated court dates in March, but the activists argue that's overblown. They suggest the true damages would be closer to $20,000.

Locals say the Chanterelle Forest is an optimal growing site for mushrooms. ( Elphinstone Logging Focus)

Paying either amount would be a stretch at best, according to Muirhead.

"We wouldn't be able to pay a quarter of a million dollars and we'd have to struggle to find the money for $20,000, but we do have some funders who feel this is important enough to them that they would probably pay that amount," he said.

Warren's judgment notes the three activists have all been the subject of past court orders related to their anti-logging protests, with injunctions against them dating back to 2012.

"It is apparent that the petitioners have historically pursued what they consider to be a worthy cause in an unlawful way, and that they have been disruptive in doing so," she wrote. 

But, the judge went on, "they appear to have wisely changed tack. Rather than engaging in an unlawful blockade of cut block EW28, they seek to attack the cutting permit itself through a lawful application for judicial review."

She said their past behaviour was not an adequate reason to deny an extension of the injunction.

The two sides will be back in court Thursday to present arguments about the potential damages in the judicial review, Muirhead said.

About the Author

Bethany Lindsay

Journalist

Bethany Lindsay is a B.C. journalist with a focus on the courts, health, science and social justice issues. Questions or news tips? Get in touch at bethany.lindsay@cbc.ca or on Twitter through @bethanylindsay.