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A mixed media collage with an owl and another bird. Logs are placed around them. The background shows a forest.

press release

Ecojustice launches court challenge to maintain public access to forest lands on south Vancouver Island

March 1, 2022

VANCOUVER/UNCEDED xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (MUSQUEAM), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (SQUAMISH) AND səlilwətaɬ (TSLEIL-WAUTUTH) TERRITORIES – Representing Dr. Royann Petrell, Ecojustice is going to court to challenge at least eight road closures granted by the B.C. Ministry of Forests throughout Tree Farm Licence 46 (TFL 46) – an area that includes the injunction enforcement area established by the B.C. Supreme Court against blockades in the vicinity of Fairy Creek.

Dr. Royann Petrell, Associate Professor Emerita at the University of British Columbia, is an esteemed scientist whose work has detected the western screech owl and the marbled murrelet in TFL 46 – both listed as threatened under the federal Species at Risk Act. Her western screech owl detections prompted the B.C. government to send officials into the area to verify findings.

Due to road closures blocking access to TFL 46 since June 2021, Dr. Petrell and other citizen-scientists have been prevented from accessing areas rich in old-growth forests and biodiversity and have been unable to effectively carry out their work of documenting threatened species in the area.

After receiving approval to close the roads, Teal Cedar Products Ltd. – the company involved in logging in TFL 46 – installed gates and hired a private security firm to operate them.

The ability of citizen-scientists monitoring, studying, and protecting birds and other species to access the area has been significantly impeded. By closing access to roads that have been used regularly by the public, Teal Cedar has effectively turned wide swathes of public lands into private property.

The B.C. Ministry of Forests has the authority to close or restrict the usage of roads if property, public health, or public safety might be endangered. However, the ministry granted many of Teal Cedar’s requests to restrict public access for the purpose of “protecting logging operations”. Dr. Petrell’s work is scientific in nature – it in no way inhibits logging operations. Further, the ministry did not include any conditions in its approvals requiring Teal Cedar to maintain reasonable public access.

The current injunction against those protesting logging at Fairy Creek applies to those involved in the blockade, and the court has made a clear distinction between protestors and those going about their everyday business.

Dr. Petrell is not involved in blockades surrounding the logging at Fairy Creek or elsewhere in TFL 46 and should not have been denied access to the area.

Rachel Gutman, Ecojustice lawyer, said:
“By permitting blanket road closures, the B.C. government is effectively putting the interests of resource development and extraction companies before the rights of local people and communities to access public lands.

“At a time of a biodiversity crisis, we need scientists like Dr. Petrell to be able carry out their important work of mapping species unimpeded. Logging companies shouldn’t be able to stand in their way.”

Dr. Royann Petrell, Associate Professor Emerita at the University of British Columbia, said:
“The B.C. government doesn’t generally know where endangered birds and other wildlife are located. Citizen-scientists like me are trying to fill that gap before the province’s few remaining areas of old-growth forest are logged.

“The gates in TFL 46 prevent citizen scientists from identifying and protecting at-risk species in areas where logging is imminent – and prevent us from doing what the B.C. government should have done years ago, before it approved logging in those areas.”

Ecojustice uses the power of the law to defend nature, combat climate change, and fight for a healthy environment. Its strategic, public interest lawsuits and advocacy lead to precedent-setting court decisions and law and policy that deliver lasting solutions to Canada’s most urgent environmental problems. As Canada’s largest environmental law charity, Ecojustice operates offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa, and Halifax.