PORT RENFREW, B.C. - A protest group is defending the actions of its members who cut down some small trees to impede police enforcing a court injunction against blockades that have been set up to prevent old-growth logging on southern Vancouver Island.
The RCMP said in a news release Saturday that protesters had cut 18 trees with chainsaws and laid the trunks across a road in the Fairy Creek watershed area.
The group, dubbed the Rainforest Flying Squad, responded in a statement on Monday, saying its members cut the small, second-growth trees in order to slow police progress in reaching other protesters who were chained to structures.
They say Pacheedaht First Nation elder Bill Jones, who supports the protest group, does not disapprove of their felling of small trees to protect old growth.
A statement from Jones released by the group says it's common practice in logging to cut down young trees growing at the side of roadways and that's not a threat to ecology.
The Rainforest Flying Squad says very little of the best old-growth forest remains in B.C., and the province's temporary deferral of old-growth logging across 2,000 hectares in the Fairy Creek and central Walbran areas falls short of what's needed.
The RCMP have made 494 arrests since they began enforcing the injunction in May.
The protest group also says it instituted a fire-safety protocol last month, instructing its members not to smoke outside of cars and to use hand saws or battery-operated chainsaws when cutting wood. The Mounties' statement on Saturday said a protester was seen smoking a cigarette in dry conditions.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 26, 2021.