With concerns about her own local watershed in her mind, Alison Nicholson made the trek to the Fairy Creek old-growth logging protest camps last week.
The Cowichan Valley Regional District director for Area E was one of several municipal and regional policitians from across Vancouver Island who visited the camps on Monday, June 7. Although the court injunction that the RCMP are enforcing in the area permits local government officials to cross the lines as observers, the politicians were there as citizens, and not in any official role as representatives.
“I went up because I feel very strongly that the environment is in really rough shape at this point,” Nicholson related. “Because of climate change and the industrial way we’re doing forestry and agriculture. We need to stop and think hard about forestry practices and ways to protect biodiversity.”
Nicholson used to work as a forest ecologist, and says forestry practices have diverged from science in recent decades.
“Science is supposed to inform practice, but in the last 40 years, I haven’t seen that practice has kept up with science,” she said. “It doesn’t make any sense.”
Nicholson lives in the Koksilah watershed, where water flow issues have been increasingly obvious in the last few summers. The area is beset by drought in the summer, she noted, and deluged by storms in the winter.
“It has to do with climate change, but it’s exacerbated by forestry practices,” she said. “Eighty per cent of the watershed is forest-managed land.”
Nicholson said she is grateful to the protesters who have made sacrifices to defend the ancient forests and to the First Nations, who have been asserting their rights to manage their traditional territories and who understand how ecosystems need to work.
“If we take our science and their traditional knowledge and weave it together, that’s what we need,” she said. “We have an opportunity. The environment is resilient, but we need to slow down and let it recover.”
Of the seven local government representatives who visited Fairy Creek that day, three, including Nicholson, hiked into Waterfall Camp — a 22km round trip — where they had a group discussion with the protesters, who she described as “very committed people and very caring people.”
“They clearly communicated that they are committed to what they are doing,” she said. “They were interested to know how they can better influence things once this is over, and we encouraged them to talk to their MLAs and other representatives.”
While Nicholson and her companions ran into no problems with the RCMP — Saanich councillor Nathalie Chambers tried to get arrested but was unsuccessful — the protesters expressed concerns with some of the police tactics.
“All the interactions we had with the police were fine, but they indicated that they were traumatized by some of the night raids and other things going on,” Nicholson said. “They were pretty on edge.”
Well over 200 protesters have been arrested since the start of enforcement of the BC Supreme Court injunction. Despite a two-year deferral on old-growth logging in Vancouver Island’s Fairy Creek and Central Walbran areas announced by the provincial government in response to a declaration put forth three southwestern Vancouver Island First Nations, the protesters say their work is not finished.