By: The Working Forest Staff
VANCOUVER. vancouverisland.ctvnews.ca — The company at the centre of old-growth logging protests on southern Vancouver Island is speaking out about the effect those protests are having on the company and its workers.
Jack Gardner is a log purchaser for Teal Jones, which holds licenses allowing it to log in the Fairy Creek Watershed, where protesters have been camped out since last summer to prevent logging in what they call the South Island’s last unprotected old-growth forest.
Gardner says his company has been unfairly maligned by the protesters and their supporters. He says Teal Jones is a responsible forestry company and a model within the industry.
“This is a family-run company that’s helped build this province since the 1940s,” Gardner told CTV News Vancouver Island in an interview Saturday. “We responsibly log, put good jobs out there, and we do a lot of value-added manufacturing, and I think it’s really important to get our story out there.”
As of Friday, Mounties had arrested 137 people at blockades in the Fairy Creek area for violating a court-ordered injunction prohibiting them from obstructing the work of Teal Jones crews.
Gardner said the company is grateful for the RCMP’s assistance and hopeful that logging in the area will continue.
“We respect their right to peacefully protest, but enough’s enough,” he said of the protesters. “We’ve got to get back to work. You know, we do things the right way, we engage with local First Nations, we log carefully and moderately, we operate well within government regulations. We’re just trying to get back to work here.”
Gardner’s plea comes on the same day that supporters of the protesters called for a “big day” of action against old-growth logging in B.C., with advocates gathering in communities around the province.
The protests are focused specifically on old growth, which Gardner said accounts for a relatively small portion of his company’s business. He said about 80 percent of the logs that pass through the company’s mill in Surrey, B.C. are second growth, not old growth.
But, when CTV News asked how Teal Jones might be affected if protesters are successful in compelling the province to ban old-growth logging, Gardner said there would be a significant impact.
“If you take out the old growth, you’re going to see a lot of unemployment,” he said. “It does employ quite a few people here in the province.”
Gardner estimated that Teal Jones has roughly 1,000 employees in B.C., including 400 or so on Vancouver Island. He didn’t speculate as to how many would lose their jobs if the company was prohibited from logging old growth, but he also noted that such a ban would cause job losses throughout the forestry industry, not just at his company.
He also pointed to old-growth forests in B.C. that have been formally protected from logging.
“There are still millions of acres of old-growth forest protected, so it’s never, ever going to run out,” Gardner said. “There are lots of protected old-growth out there.”
Still, more than a hundred people, and counting, have shown they are willing to be arrested to protect the forests that aren’t already protected.
It’s an entrenched and passionate opposition that Gardner says has been largely peaceful, but has included an increasing number of angry and occasionally threatening messages directed at Teal Jones and its employees in recent days.
He also noted that the brake lines on a company vehicle in the Fairy Creek Watershed had been cut, something RCMP have said they are investigating.
Gardner’s message to protesters could be summarized in the same terms they might use to describe their message to him: “We’re not leaving.”
“We’ve been around for 75 years,” he said. “We’re going to be around for another 75 years. We’re not going anywhere, so it’s just time to get back to work.”
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