Could conservationists buy a portion of Fairy Creek to protect it?

The Discourse answers community members’ questions about Fairy Creek.

This story was originally published on June 23 by our partners at The Discourse. For more analysis on Fairy Creek, sign up for The Discourse’s pop-up newsletter.

In response to our news coverage about the resistance to old-growth logging in the Fairy Creek area, a reader wrote in and asked: Is the land — or a portion of it — private such that a group of conservationists could buy some portion of it to protect it?

The area where the protests are taking place is Crown land. While “Fairy Creek” has become a shorthand for the conflict’s location, the blockades and camps span a large area, both in the vicinity of the Fairy Creek watershed and in the Caycuse area, which is a significant distance away. 

The actual title holders of Crown land are the First Nations on whose unceded traditional territory it sits, in this case Pacheedaht First Nation and Ditidaht First Nation. Recently, the Pacheedaht, Ditidaht and Huu-ay-aht asserted their intention to make their own decisions around what activities will be permitted on their lands. 

Meanwhile, the forestry company Teal-Jones has a 25-year licence to harvest timber from a large swath of these territories, including the areas at issue in the protests.

The licence is a deal between the company and the province where the company agrees to harvest timber and pay taxes in return. There’s no precedent or process for conservation groups to buy timber harvesting rights as a measure of protection.

This map, created and shared by the Wilderness Committee, shows protected areas, deferral areas and old growth areas in the vicinity of Fairy Creek, near Port Renfrew.

Some level of protection already applies to some, but not all, of the old-growth stands in those areas. Old Growth Management Areas (OGMAs) and wildlife habitat areas cover certain patches, including most of the Fairy Creek watershed. Deferrals announced in recent weeks extend temporary protection further, but cover only a small portion of the old growth that Teal-Jones has harvesting rights to.

According to a 2009 management plan report for this particular licence, the company expected half of its total harvest to be from old-growth forests (where most of the trees are 250 years old or older) between 2009 and 2019. 

If the government extends further protections or makes the deferrals permanent, it may be required to compensate Teal-Jones for its losses.

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