British Columbia

Activists block entrance to southeastern B.C. rainforest to protest old growth logging

Revelstoke school teacher Sarah Newton says her group is urging the province to stop logging companies from cutting down old-growth trees of the rainforest of the Argonaut Valley along Big Mouth Creek.

Members of Old Growth Revylution set up blockades to Argonaut Valley rainforest last week

Old Growth Revylution protesters from Revelstoke, B.C., pose for a photo with the Splatsin members of the Secwépemc Nation at the entrance of Big Mouth Forest Service Road off Highway 23, about 120 kilometres north of the city. (Submitted by Old Growth Revylution)

An environmental group in southeastern B.C. is blocking the only access road to a local rainforest in protest of old-growth logging practices in the area.

Members of the Old Growth Revylution have set up barricades at the entrance of Big Mouth Forest Service Road, off Highway 23, about 120 kilometres north of Revelstoke.

Kukpi7 Wayne Christian, chief of the Splatsin First Nation and tribal chief of the Shuswap Nation Tribal Council, supported the protest by conducting a ceremony at the blockade on Sunday. B.C. Assembly of First Nations Grand Chief Terry Teegee and representatives from the Syilx Okanagan Nation also attended the ceremony. 

School teacher Sarah Newton, who has been on the site since last Tuesday, said she and fellow protesters will be occupying the gateway to the 600-square-kilometre rainforest in the Argonaut Valley until the province stops all timber operations on old-growth trees that are important for conserving the endangered southern mountain caribou.

"They [the caribou] need that old-growth forest and access to deep snow. That's what they've evolved to survive in," Newton said Monday to Chris Walker, the host of CBC's Daybreak South.

"They've been very successful until the last 100 years where there's been logging in this valley."

The red tag marks the location of the Old Growth Revylution blockade, 120 kilometres north of Revelstoke. (Google Maps)

According to the B.C. government, there is no active logging of old-growth forest in the area.

A recent study funded by the B.C. and federal governments shows that caribou have lost twice as much habitat as they've gained over the past 12 years. Research shows that logging and climate change are some of the main factors driving the habitat loss.

B.C. has also committed to implementing 14 recommendations made last September in a report conducted by two foresters. The report was commissioned by the province to review how old-growth forest should be protected.

The report urged B.C. to act within six months to defer harvesting in old-growth forest ecosystems at the highest risk of permanent biodiversity loss.

Recent study shows caribou have lost twice as much habitat as they've gained over the past 12 years because of logging and climate change. (Parks Canada)

The province deferred logging in 11 of the 14 cutblocks of the Argonaut Valley rainforest last November. No logging will be done in those areas until the province comes up with a new caribou management plan.

In an emailed statement to CBC News, the B.C. forests ministry said its final decision on the future of forest management in that area will depend on the caribou management plan and the outcome of consultation with First Nations. 

Old Growth Revylution group wants old growth tree logging to be deferred in the remaining three cutblocks as well, although the province says there's no active logging in these blocks.

"For two or more decades, everybody, especially the government, knows they shouldn't be logging all [old-growth trees] because of the biodiversity," Newton said.

Sarah Newton, first from the left, says she and fellow protesters want all old-growth tree logging to stop in the area. (Submitted by Old Growth Revylution)

Newton said she hopes all old-growth logging in the rainforest will be stopped before she goes back to Revelstoke for the new school year. 

"I cannot go back to my classroom not having done this, because it's what I tell my students that they have to stand up for what is just and what's right," she said.

With files from Daybreak South, Chad Pawson and The Canadian Press