Willow, Rowan and Monkey (camp names) wrestled through the complex issues of civil disobedience and protesting logging when each of them feels very pro forestry — except for old-growth. They’d just come back from a night operation of building hard blocks at a blockade. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)

Willow, Rowan and Monkey (camp names) wrestled through the complex issues of civil disobedience and protesting logging when each of them feels very pro forestry — except for old-growth. They’d just come back from a night operation of building hard blocks at a blockade. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)

Behind the line at Fairy Creek: Inside B.C.’s old growth forest battleground

There’s surprising activity happening behind the lines at the Fairy Creek old-growth protest sites

On a hot Wednesday afternoon, while RCMP attempted to control about 40 protesters supporting their comrades in “hard blocks” at the Waterfall blockade, one part of the Fairy Creek watershed protest, three people were bushwhacking down the mountain out of sight of the police.

As they evaded police by hacking through the brambles, they philosophized: “Did we make the right call to come?” “What does Indigenous sovereignty really look like, and are we supporting it by being here?” “Is the negative impact on logging communities worth the end goal?”

The trio of recent university grads had just finished their first night ops mission. First, they hiked in after sunset to the steep back road camp, hauling 40 kilograms of concrete mix plus tenting gear, climbing rope and some food. Then, they constructed “hard blocks” where protesters will lock themselves to slow police progress.

Slowing everything down is a key part of the Fairy Creek Blockade strategy. They want to keep the trees alive, so they’re doing whatever annoying thing they can to get in the way.

Each hard block is different, but the most common is called a sleeping dragon: an arm-sized hole in the road, reinforced with concrete and metal and a locking mechanism at the bottom. A protester will lie on the ground with their arm locked in the hole. They can leave whenever they want, but it takes the RCMP’s tactical team hours to safely extract someone who isn’t cooperating.

This tripod hard block holds protester Andreea Privu about 20 feet above the road, with a PVC pipe arm cuff she can lock herself into if needed. It’s difficult for RCMP to extract someone safely from a structure like this, adding hours to their efforts to enforce an injunction. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)

Since May 17, RCMP have tried to enforce a court-ordered injunction on Tree Forest Licence 46 in the backwoods between Port Renfrew and Lake Cowichan, where the Teal-Jones Group has a licence to build roads and log.

But they seem to have made little progress securing access to the area, despite making upwards of 170 arrests for civil breach of the injunction. The amorphous group of protesters, or so-called land defenders, have so far succeeded in reinforcing their blockades each time, even taking back areas the RCMP previously cleared out.

“I am pro-forestry, and I felt really uncomfortable protesting forestry in a community that is not my own,” said one of the three renegade builders who’s going by Monkey — protesters at the camp are all using camp names to maintain anonymity. But his retiree parents were out camping in the bush, willing to be arrested for the cause, so Monkey came to support them. Then, seeing the trees up close, he quickly changed his mind.

“I’ve never felt good about old-growth logging, and after seeing the trees, it was a no-brainer to me. I think that forestry that happens conventionally with second-growth logs is fine, but the stuff at Eden (a camp near Avatar grove), it’s insane. There’s like these 12- to 15-foot cedars, and there’s tons of them,” he said.

Monkey’s friends Rowan and Willow (also camp names) came after hours of research and lengthy discussions. They came with climbing skills, critical minds and a dozen Rubbermaid totes of donated rock climbing gear from the Squamish climbing community.

This hard block that Kassia Kooy, 25, locked herself to, was a new design for police. Sgt. Elenore Sturko said ingenuity like this is the reason police’s enforcement action has not moved faster. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)


Every time the RCMP breakthrough one block, the protesters are already thinking up new ideas to make things more complicated. Protesters come with various specialties that have proven useful, like Rowan, a recently graduated environmental engineer.

“This is the closest I’ve found to work in my field,” he laughed.

Even while cordoned off by police during the day, protesters are scheming and brainstorming. Whispers of What about …,” “Could we …,” “Does anyone know… ,” “How do you … ,” merge with the sound of the waterfall in the distance, the chatter of birds and wind in the leaves.

One report from the protesters described leaving rock and log wall obstacles for police to dismantle with as many hours of manual labour as it took to construct. “At one point, forest defenders were constructing barricades within eyesight of police removing them,” the Rainforest Flying Squad’s media team wrote.

Back at headquarters, Monkey, Rowan and Willow download their intelligence to someone at the intake tent with a walkie-talkie clipped to her shorts. She sends them to the kitchen for food: “Tell them you just came off a night op. They’ll make something for you.” It had been almost 18 hours since they’d hiked out the night before.

The kitchen is a rustic structure just past the makeshift wooden gate at Fairy Creek HQ. It’s often the starting place for people who show up wanting to help.

Bari Precious, a.k.a. Cookie, turned 73 working in Fairy Creek HQ kitchen in late May. She said she’s here for the trees, for reconciliation, and she’s going to try to stay until it’s resolved. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)


It’s where Cookie ended up, real name Bari Precious when she turned up in April. “I said, I don’t want to lift rocks, but I can cook. They said, ‘Okay, you’re on tomorrow at 6 a.m.’ And that’s how it began.”

Precious has been running the kitchen, often from 6 a.m. until after dark. She and helpers scramble eggs and simmer porridge for breakfast and then pack sandwiches for road crews before starting lunch and then dinner. There isn’t a lot of time to rest, but there are many volunteers to chop vegetables, boil water, stir soup and wash dishes.

Precious isn’t new to civil disobedience – she says she helped hide American draft dodgers in the 1960s – but says this is the first time she’s committed this much to a cause. She visited the camp for a few days here and there in April, but by the end of May had decided to stick it out. She turned 73 in the backwoods last week and only remembered because her 98-year-old mother scolded her for being away from home.

She’s there for the trees, of course. It takes 900 years for the forest to develop one foot of topsoil, she lectures from over the kitchen counter, in between answering questions and directing her hive of helpers.

“But most of all, this is reconciliation,” she said. “We took over, and we’ve taken severe advantage of (the First Nations.) We’ve taken lives away.”

Shail Wolf admires the ancient tree the protesters have dubbed the grandmother. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)


Any given day, visitors to camp will see an incongruously organized mixture of retirees, recent graduates, working professionals and some who have left their jobs to protest. There are doctors, tradespeople, social workers, educators, farmers, artists and entrepreneurs. No one’s in charge, but everyday food gets made, rocks and logs are hauled into place, donations are sorted and distributed, the news is shared, and plans are made.

“I hate to compare it to a war effort, but there are people at home who are coordinating things and gathering supplies that are necessary for people who are willing or able to go to the front lines,” Rowan said.

The next night, Rowan, Willow and Monkey were back at Waterfall for another night’s construction of hard blocks. Monkey woke at 4:30 a.m. on Friday to the sound of several plainclothes RCMP officers walking into camp. Then, he heard the rip of a bag of fast-expanding foam being opened.

Before he could stop them, the officers had filled in the holes of all but one hard block with the foam that dries rock hard, making them unusable. The next day, hundreds of new supporters hiked to various blockades and camps in the forest, and the stand-off continues.

For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.

RELATED: Vancouver Island First Nations declaration not enough for old-growth protesters

RELATED: First Nations tell B.C. to pause old growth logging on southwest Vancouver Island


Do you have a story tip? Email: zoe.ducklow@blackpress.ca.

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and like us on Facebook.

Fairy Creek watershedforestryprotest

Just Posted

The Williams Lake Stampede Association will crown a new queen, and potentially a princess, during the Williams Lake Stampede Royalty coronation on Saturday, June 26. Vying for the title are Miss Williams Lake Lions Kennady Dyck (from left), Miss Peterson Contracting Ltd. Karena Sokolan and Miss MH King Excavating Bayley Cail. (Photos submitted)
New Williams Lake Stampede Queen to be crowned June 26

“It was jump in right away all the way,” Wessels said of getting the program up and running

As the province moves to lift some COVID-19 restrictions, the city of Williams Lake will be opening up its city council meetings to the public, beginning June 22. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Public attendance on the agenda once again for Williams Lake city council meetings

Residents will be permitted to attend meetings in person beginning June 22

The Cariboo Chilcotin Conservation Society invites residents in 100 Mile House, Williams Lake and Quesnel to participate in “Free Your Things” taking place over the Father’s Day weekend. (Mary Forbes photo)
Cariboo Conservation Society co-ordinating “Free Your Things” Father’s Day weekend

Residents can sign up if they have items they want to give away

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Second dose vaccinations accelerating throughout region: Interior Health

To date, more than 675,000 doses have been administered throughout the region

Thompson Rivers University Williams Lake Campus. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Williams Lake high school teacher valedictorian for TRU virtual graduation ceremonies

Jonathan Harding is graduating with a master of education degree

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

FILE – A science class at L.A. Matheson Secondary in Surrey, B.C. on March 12, 2021. (Lauren Collins/Surrey Now Leader)
Teachers’ union wants more COVID transmission data as B.C. prepares for back-to-school

BCTF says that details will be important as province works on plan for September

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry outlines B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan, May 25, 2021, including larger gatherings and a possible easing of mandatory masks on July 1. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. records 120 new COVID-19 cases, second vaccines accelerating

Lower Pfizer deliveries for early July, Moderna shipments up

A Heffley Creek peacock caught not one - but two - lifts on a logging truck this month. (Photo submitted)
Heffley Creek-area peacock hops logging trucks in search of love

Peacock hitched two lifts in the past month

The Calgary skyline is seen on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
2 deaths from COVID-19 Delta variant in Alberta, 1 patient was fully immunized

Kerry Williamson with Alberta Health Services says the patients likely acquired the virus in the hospital

The first suspension bridge is the tallest in Canada, with a second suspension bridge just below it. The two are connected by a trail that’s just over 1 km. (Claire Palmer photo)
PHOTOS: The highest suspension bridges in Canada just opened in B.C.

The Skybridge in Golden allows visitors to take in views standing at 130 and 80 metres

BC Green Party leader and Cowichan Valley MLA Sonia Furstenau introduced a petition to the provincial legislature on Thursday calling for the end of old-growth logging in the province. (File photo)
BC Green leader Furstenau introduces old-growth logging petition

Party calls for the end of old-growth logging as protests in Fairy Creek continue

B.C. Premier John Horgan leaves his office for a news conference in the legislature rose garden, June 3, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. premier roasted for office budget, taxing COVID-19 benefits

Youth addiction law that triggered election hasn’t appeared

Most Read