Wendy Priesnitz, the newly elected leader of the Green Party of Canada, has affirmed support for people who are protesting clearcutting and logging of old growth forests across Canada. "The Green Party of Canada will help pay fines for those arrested while participating in peaceful civil disobedience activities to protest clearcutting and logging of old growth forests in the interior of British Columbia," she said.
"It is incomprehensible to me that even after the unprecedented public protest in B.C.'s Clayquot Sound just a few years ago, clearcutting and logging of old growth forests are still very much on the corporate and government agenda," said Priesnitz. She added that this environmental degradation crosses partisan political boundaries.
Priesnitz drew attention to three provinces, governed by three different political parties, where environmentalists are currently working to prevent clearcutting or logging of old growth forests: the Slocan Valley in British Columbia, Ontario's Temagami region, and the Christmas Mountains in New Brunswick.
In the Slocan Valley in B.C., delicate watershed systems are threatened by impending clearcutting of one of the last old-growth pine ecosystems in Canada. Water supplies for a number of communities are at risk. The Slocan Valley Watershed Alliance's water monitoring program has found significant differences in water quality between logged and unlogged creeks. Landslides from logging and road building are frequent in the steep, mountainous valley. Residents fear that logging will induce landslides into their water supplies.
The BC NDP government has recently been exposed as one of the largest shareholders in Slocan Forest Products, which will profit from the government decision to allow watershed logging in the Slocan Valley. The goverment also owns shares in MacMillan Bloedel, which was the target of protest in Clayquot Sound a few years ago.
In Ontario's Temagami wilderness area, environmentalists are trying to protect the Owain Lake old-growth stand from logging, which was recently approved by the province's Conservative government. The government has also opened the delicate area up to mining. Temagami has been a focus for protests by environmentalists and aboriginal groups since the late 1980s.
Clearcut logging is also threatening the last virgin forest in New Brunswick, despite promises by the provincial Liberal government to establish a protected wilderness area. The Friends of the Christmas Mountains are aiming to preserve the 12,000 acres that have been proposed as a protected wilderness area. This is about three percent of the total area of New Brunswick licenced to Repap, the logging company that leases a large portion of crown land in the province.
Noting that the Green Party is unique in understanding the connection between environment and economy, Priesnitz said there are ecologically sustainable alternatives to clearcutting, which governments are apparently ignoring. "The Green Party does not advocate the complete cessation of logging. There are well researched alternatives, such as selection logging. Local economies can also benefit from increasing the value-added component of the wood that is harvested and from nurturing industries that will provide similar end products using recycling or alternative raw materials."
In many cases, environmentalists have been told that the loggers are also against clearcutting. Drawing parallels to the Canadian fisheries industry, where fishers first raised the alarm about declining fish stocks, Priesnitz notes that loggers understand that eventually they will be out of work due to lack of trees.
The Green Party of Ontario previously announced that it would help pay fines for protesters arrested in Ontario's Temagami region.
Contact: Wendy Priesnitz, Leader
Green Party of Canada
Phone: (519) 448-4001