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Old-Growth Forest Logging Approvals Are Soaring in BC

Old-Growth Forest Logging Approvals Are Soaring in BC

Companies are rushing to get permits before protection comes for critical areas, advocates say.

New mapping released today by the Wilderness Committee indicates the province approved significantly more old-growth logging over the past 12 months than it did the previous year.

According to the report released today, the province approved logging in 84,669 hectares of old-growth forest over the past year compared with 59,228 hectares the year prior.

Advocates speculate that the 43-per-cent increase could signal the forest industry’s push to secure harvestable timber as the province promises tighter restrictions on old-growth logging.

“The reason we ran the comparison was because I was expecting a little bit of an increase, or at the very least a flatline,” said Torrance Coste, national campaign director with the Wilderness Committee.

Even then, Coste said he found the increase surprising.

He said the decision to map cut-block approvals in old-growth forests was based on hearing concerns about the rate of logging from around the province.

The organization said that based on mapping of publicly available government data in the year leading up to April 30, the old growth approved for logging over the past 12 months is equivalent to an area slightly larger than E.C. Manning Provincial Park.

Coste said several factors could contribute to an increase in old-growth logging permits. An eight-month strike by coastal forestry workers in 2020 and ongoing mill closures and curtailments may have led to a decrease in permits in the prior year.

In addition, he said the recent spike in lumber prices could contribute to an increase in logging.

But he also speculates that the forest industry is preparing for additional restrictions on old-growth logging.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Babine Lake Mines Leaking Dangerous Contaminants into Salmon Habitat, Say Critics

Babine Lake Mines Leaking Dangerous Contaminants into Salmon Habitat, Say Critics

Advocates want greater oversight as a mapping project identifies more than 170 mines putting waterways at risk.

Two closed mines on islands in Babine Lake are leaking dangerous levels of copper that could be damaging the Skeena watershed’s most valuable sockeye salmon spawning lake, The Tyee has learned.

In a report due out this week, SkeenaWild Conservation Trust and the Lake Babine Nation say an analysis of monitoring data from mine owner Glencore shows wastewater from the mines has included elevated levels of heavy metals, including copper contamination up to 20 times greater than provincial water quality guidelines.

It’s unclear what impact that could be having on Babine Lake’s salmon stocks, which account for 90 per cent of the Skeena watershed’s sockeye.

But Donna Macintyre, fisheries director for Lake Babine Nation, says there is clearly a threat.

“Does it affect salmon? Obviously, if we’re putting discharge into the lake, and we’ve got zooplankton that the fish depend upon for food, it will affect them,” Macintyre told The Tyee.

“We have these guidelines for copper, all of the heavy metals that are discharged into the lake, but they’re basically for human consumption. Nobody has really done major studies on fish.”

Lake Babine Nation worked with SkeenaWild to analyze data that dates back to the mines’ operation in the 1970s. But the research focused on the past 12 years since the start of Glencore’s monitoring program at the sites. The studies were done on samples of water, sediment and tissue taken from lake trout and sculpin.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Indigenous Land Rights Action Blocks Northern BC Highway

Indigenous Land Rights Action Blocks Northern BC Highway

Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en members join day of action to support Ontario nation locked in conflict over development on its traditional territory.

Northern B.C.’s main highway was closed for more than an hour Friday evening as members of the Gitxsan Nation shut down traffic in a show of support for Indigenous rights actions across the country.

The blockade of Highway 16 in New Hazelton, between Smithers and Terrace, was part of a national day of action called for by Haudenosaunee Six Nations members fighting a residential complex on their traditional territory in southern Ontario. While about a dozen events took place in Ontario and Quebec, New Hazelton’s was the only one in Western Canada.

“Everything that’s been taken from us is connected to the land,” organizer Lorinda Campbell told close to 50 people who gathered in the rain at the New Hazelton visitor centre. “We are connected to the land.”

Drumming, singing and carrying signs and banners, the group moved from the visitor centre onto the highway shortly after 5 p.m., where they occupied a bridge in what organizer Hilary Lightening called “a strong message to the government.”

“The Haudenosaunee of Six Nations have issued a call for solidarity across Turtle Island. It’s akin to the same callout that we received from the Wet’suwet’en to shut down Canada,” Lightening said before the event. “What is happening in Canada is this criminalization of land defenders.”

The Haudenosaunee have been occupying a parcel of land on their traditional territory next to the Six Nations of the Grand River Reserve in Caledonia, Ont., since July. The occupation is known as 1492 Land Back Lane, a reference to the year Christopher Columbus landed in the Americas.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Coastal GasLink Gets Green Light to Start Pipeline Work Near Unist’ot’en Healing Centre

Coastal GasLink Gets Green Light to Start Pipeline Work Near Unist’ot’en Healing Centre

BC approves impact studies and calls for consultation with Wet’suwet’en as work proceeds in contested area.

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Freda Huson (Howilhkat), director of the Unist’ot’en Healing Centre, continued singing as the RCMP arrested her at the site on Feb. 10. Photo by Amanda Follett Hosgood.

The province’s Environmental Assessment Office has granted Coastal GasLink permission to begin pipeline construction near the Unist’ot’en Healing Centre, the scene of a standoff and arrests in February.

On Thursday, the office issued seven letters confirming its approval of an impact assessment report submitted July 17 by the pipeline company. Coastal GasLink can now begin work on its natural gas pipeline in the Morice River Technical Boundary Area south of Smithers, B.C.

Completion and approval of the 324-page report was a condition of the company’s environmental assessment certificate, initially granted in 2014.

Until 2019 the company was unable to access terrain near the healing centre to do impact assessments, because the Wet’suwet’en house group had gated the Morice River bridge at its territorial boundary. Coastal GasLink submitted an initial report in November, and the Environmental Assessment Office requested additional information in February.

The letters issued Thursday were addressed to Coastal GasLink, four Wet’suwet’en band councils and the Office of the Wet’suwet’en, which represents the nation’s hereditary chiefs.

By far the longest, at 11 pages, was the letter to Unist’ot’en Hereditary Chief Knedebeas, whose English name is Warner William.

In it, Nathan Braun, acting assistant deputy minister for the Environmental Assessment Office, acknowledges the house group’s lack of consent to the project and recent willingness to engage in dialogue to mitigate impacts to the Unist’ot’en Healing Centre, located a kilometre from the pipeline route.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Wet’suwet’en Fear Contaminated Soil Cleanup Is Creating New Risks

Wet’suwet’en Fear Contaminated Soil Cleanup Is Creating New Risks

Waste from diesel spills by Coastal GasLink and RCMP is being dumped in local landfill.

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Tarp covering spill site at RCMP’s Community-Industry Safety Office, which was set up last year to patrol protests where Coastal GasLink is building a pipeline to transport natural gas. Photo: submitted.

Efforts to clean up diesel spills by the RCMP and Coastal GasLink in Wet’suwet’en territory risk spreading the contamination, the First Nation has warned.

Mike Ridsdale, environmental assessment co-ordinator for the Office of the Wet’suwet’en, the central office for the nation, said the waste is being moved to a nearby landfill where it will still pose a threat.

“We’ve had two spills where the contaminants were knowingly moved into another watershed and are now threatening our water,” Ridsdale said. “This is unacceptable to the Wet’suwet’en, and our yintah (territory) should not suffer from this poorly designed remediation.”

Government officials are defending the transfer of 2,351 tonnes of contaminated soil and gravel to a nearby landfill instead of a site farther away that’s designed to take hazardous waste.

The materials came from two separate spills, one at a Coastal GasLink work camp and the other at the RCMP Community-Industry Safety Office, both south of Houston on the Morice West Forest Service Road.

Police established the remote detachment to monitor potential conflicts over the building of Coastal GasLink’s natural gas pipeline, which is opposed by Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs.

Each spill is estimated at about 500 litres. The spill at the RCMP detachment occurred about 100 metres from the Morice River.

The contaminated soil is being taken to the Knockholt Landfill east of Houston, which is within a kilometre of the Bulkley River. According to the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako’s website, the landfill is suitable for residential, commercial and institutional waste, including food, wood, animal carcasses and scrap metal. Industrial waste is not accepted.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Security Camera Captures Heavily Armed RCMP at Wet’suwet’en Cultural Site

Security Camera Captures Heavily Armed RCMP at Wet’suwet’en Cultural Site

RCMP have no reason to carry assault weapons or even be at the newly constructed smokehouse, say spokespersons.

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RCMP officers and Coastal GasLink pipeline workers captured on trail camera despite lack of environmental assessment approvals. Photo submitted.

Members of the Wet’suwet’en Nation are challenging RCMP actions on their territory after a security camera captured images of police with assault rifles checking an empty building located deep in the woods.

The building, a smokehouse that will soon be used to process fish, was built this spring at the request of Gidimt’en Clan Hereditary Chief Woos. It is on the Morice River about one kilometre from the Morice West Forest Service Road, not far from the Unist’ot’en Healing Centre where conflict between Wet’suwet’en members and pipeline builders began a decade ago.

The long dispute came to a head in January 2019 when heavily armed RCMP officers enforced an injunction by removing barricades and arresting 14 people opposing the Coastal GasLink pipeline through Wet’suwet’en territory. Earlier this year large RCMP operations again removed barricades and arrested dozens at several camps over five days.

A trail camera installed to monitor the Gidimt’en smokehouse captured two RCMP visits this month, including images of three officers, one carrying what appears to be a semi-automatic Colt C8 assault rifle, surrounding the building.

According to Cpl. Madonna Saunderson, the officers are members of a Quick Response Team assigned to the Community-Industry Safety Office, a remote detachment established to police the Morice West Forest Service Road following the arrests in January 2019.

“The photos being circulated online relate to recent patrols and the check of a newly constructed building which is on the pipeline’s right of way and is therefore in breach of the BC Supreme Court injunction order,” the statement said. “We understand that CGL has posted a notice on the building advising of this breach.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Amidst National Crisis, Province Gives Unist’ot’en an Ultimatum

Amidst National Crisis, Province Gives Unist’ot’en an Ultimatum

Meet with pipeline company within 30 days or decision will be made without you, Environmental Assessment Office says.

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Unist’ot’en member Brenda Michell, whose chief name is Geltiy, was arrested on Feb. 10. Photo by Amanda Follett Hosgood.

The office found Coastal GasLink had not provided the information needed to allow the office to assess the project’s impact.

But it said that was because the company had been prevented from accessing the area to gather the information by Wet’suwet’en opposed to the project.

Discussions between the Wet’suwet’en and Coastal GasLink are unlikely to be easy to arrange, if they happen at all.

Opposition to Coastal GasLink’s LNG pipeline by Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and their supporters have thrown the country into a national crisis. Blockades have closed major highways and railways over the past two weeks. 

On Friday, Trudeau said the barricades erected across the country should now be removed.

The nationwide protests were initiated when the RCMP enforced an injunction by removing barricades and arresting 28 people along the Morice West Forest Service Road over five days earlier this month. 

Seven of those were arrested at the Unist’ot’en Healing Centre, including Karla Tait, volunteer director of clinical programming. 

In a news release, Tait questioned the timing of the province’s directive. 

“It is very distressing, after we’ve faced assault rifles and endured arrests at the beckoning of CGL, to now be advised by EAO to work collaboratively with them to address these gaps. We urge the province to take this opportunity to respect the rule of law and follow the processes laid out to protect both our rights and the environment,” Tait’s statement said.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

‘Each Moment Here Is a Victory’: Wet’suwet’en Supporters Aren’t Backing Down

‘Each Moment Here Is a Victory’: Wet’suwet’en Supporters Aren’t Backing Down

RCMP ‘exclusion zone’ isn’t deterring anti-pipeline activists, land defenders. A report from the scene.

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‘We’re here to make sure that people stay warm and people stay fed and just to be witnesses to whatever may happen.’ Residents of a camp supporting Wet’suwet’en land defenders in northern BC on Jan. 14. Photo by Dan Mesec.

Thirty-nine kilometres down the Morice Forest Service Road in northern British Columbia, people huddle around a fire, close enough to feel some heat but not enough to melt their boots. 

At -34 C, it’s a fine line. 

A handful of people mill around in the camp about 60 kilometres south of Smithers. They are here to support the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and their opposition to a pipeline slated to cross their traditional territory. The pipeline would carry fracked gas from northeast B.C. to an LNG plant on the coast in Kitimat.

Tensions have been high in the area since a Dec. 31 B.C. Supreme Court decision that granted Coastal GasLink an injunction barring land defenders from blocking access to the pipeline work sites. Some Wet’suwet’en fear the injunction could also lead to the destruction of their camps in the area.

Since the decision, Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have evicted the company from their territory and the RCMP have established an “exclusion zone” in the area, limiting access.

Meanwhile, a steady supply of food and warm clothing donations has been making its way to this remote outpost. Land defenders say they will ensure supplies are delivered to additional camps located farther along the forestry road.

But today, what they are most hungry for is information. Since RCMP unexpectedly closed the road Monday, few people have made it past the police checkpoint and communication has been limited.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

One Year after RCMP Raid, Tensions Rise as Wet’suwet’en Evict Pipeline Company

One Year after RCMP Raid, Tensions Rise as Wet’suwet’en Evict Pipeline Company

‘It’s unnerving that might be our reality again.’

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The Gidimt’en camp is located south of Smithers in northern British Columbia. Photo by Michael Toledano.

One year after a police raid in northern British Columbia attracted international attention, tensions between Wet’suwet’en land defenders and Coastal GasLink are rising once again.

The company’s recent victory in winning a court decision granting it a permanent injunction against Indigenous protest camps was short-lived.

On Saturday, Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs evicted the company from their territory.

“Coastal GasLink [CGL] has violated the Wet’suwet’en law of trespass, and has bulldozed through our territories, destroyed our archaeological sites, and occupied our land with industrial man-camps,” a statementfrom the chiefs said. “Private security firms and RCMP have continually interfered with the constitutionally protected rights of Wet’suwet’en people to access our lands for hunting, trapping, and ceremony.”

The company confirmed Sunday that it had received the eviction notice.

“We have reached out to better understand their reasons and are hopeful we can find a mutually agreeable path forward,” it said in a statement. 

The company said trees had been felled across a road, making it impassable. “While it is unclear who felled these trees, this action is a clear violation of the Interlocutory Injunction as it prevents our crews from accessing work areas.”

Molly Wickham (Sledyo’), one of the land defenders, said last month she feared the then-impending court decision would bring more conflict.

As Wickham stirred a simmering moose stew on a wood stove in the cook tent at Gidimt’en camp, she worried the judgement might bring a repeat of last year’s RCMP raid.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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