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Ancient Forest Alliance hosts rally to protect old growth

More than four hundred people showed up to support the Ancient Forest Alliance (AFA) on Thurs. Oct 20 at Alix Goolden hall.

The Martlet - Greg Forsberg, October 27, 2011

Ancient Forest Alliance hosts rally to protect old growth
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Hul’qumi’num Treaty group Chief Treaty Negotiator Robert Morales
Greg Forsberg

More than four hundred people showed up to support the Ancient Forest Alliance (AFA) last Thursday at Alix Goolden hall. The goal of the rally was to gather support from the community in a call to the provincial government to revamp forest policies. Protection of old growth forests, transition to a sustainable second-growth forestry economy, and a ban on exportation of raw logs were some of the main talking points from a diverse group of keynote speakers.

Representatives from First Nations bands, forestry workers from the Pulp, Paper, and Woodworkers of Canada Union (PPWC), the Sierra Club, and the NDP’s forestry critic, Norm MacDonald, all spoke on the topics of old growth and forestry jobs.

Robert Morales, Chief Treaty Negotiator of the Hul’qumi’num Treaty group discussed new land use plans calling for protection of old growth in First Nations territory across the province, as well as an increase in protected endangered forests. Morales is part of a group heading to Washington, D.C. to discuss with the Inter-American Commission the possible human rights violations in taking privately owned land off the table for negotiations. He states that in addition to hurting old growth forests, deforestation also affects Indigenous communities. The loss of trees, plants and animals hinders cultural teachings. Morales wants to push for a change in Canadian domestic policy; the goal is not to displace people, but preserve forest jobs as well as the environment. The treaty group represents the largest grouping of First Nations on Vancouver Island from Shawnigan Lake to Nanaimo.
 

Arnold Bercov, President of the PPWC, called for an end to raw log exports. Ken Wu of the AFA stated 1.1 million cubic metres of raw logs were exported to China in 2010, which represents the potential of 1 000 mill jobs if processed in B.C. A decline in coastal forestry employment can be attributed to a decline in old-growth stands, resulting in trees becoming increasingly expensive to reach.

The importance of the forest to First Nations culture was driven home by Gisele Martin, Clayoquot Nuu-Cha-Nulth (Tlaoquiaht) Cultural Educator and tour operator. She stated that the forest is a pharmacy, grocery store, a home, and important for the continuation of cultural education. To know the bark is ready on a tree for basket making one must literally hug the tree, and it is important to use all that you take.

With old-growth forest on the decline, and mills having to switch procedures from old growth to second growth anyway, the AFA is calling for a switch as soon as possible.

With the provincial election next year, Wu said that there is a minority of British Columbians that want the old growth finished off.

“This is the ideal time to be pushing the B.C. government to develop comprehensive new policies because firstly, there is time to do it,” he says. “Secondly, we have time to build a broad-based movement to toss them out if they don’t.”
 

The first of many public mobilizations, Wu states that AFA are going from the woods to the streets over the next year.
 


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