Sarah Matear and other protesters march down Commercial Street on Friday as part of the March for the Forests calling for greater protection of old-growth forests and watersheds. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)

Protesters march in Nanaimo, calling for greater protection of forests and watersheds

March for the Forests happened downtown on Friday afternoon

Protesters marched for the forests today in Nanaimo, unconvinced by the province’s recently announced new approach to old-growth forest management.

An event called March for the Forests, organized locally by Extinction Rebellion and the Vancouver Island Water Watch Coalition, was held Friday, with a rally at Diana Krall Plaza and then a march through downtown.

Protesters called for greater protection of old-growth forests and watersheds, and more public decision-making about forestry practices on Crown land and privately managed land.

Robert Fuller, who went on a hunger strike for old-growth forests earlier this summer, said there’s “righteous anger” surrounding the issue. He held up his left hand, which he’d painted green.

“This doesn’t mean go. This means stop,” Fuller said. “Stop industrialized logging. Stop logging our old-growth ecosystem … Do it now before they all fade away and we can’t take our children and our children’s children to see them.”

June Ross, chairperson of the water watch coalition, said her reading of forest acts shows water seems to be a secondary priority for governments compared to profits for the forest industry. She asked people to think about what’s happening and become advocates.

“Please be vocal…” she said. “We have to scream loud, loud, loud.”

Nanaimo Coun. Ben Geselbracht told those at the rally how he visited Fairy Creek in Port Renfrew last month, where protesters are blocking logging road construction. He said people would be amazed at how quickly logging is happening and suggested both activism and political solutions are needed. He referred to the B.C. government’s recent announcements about its old-growth forests strategy.

“It’s very clear that we need to halt all high-productive old-growth logging areas under this moratorium and deferment, and that every recommendation of that report gets put into place, or else all of us are just going to be watching these forests disappear and it is heart-breaking,” Geselbracht said.

READ ALSO: Protesters in Nanaimo call for greater protection of old-growth forests

The B.C. government announced this month initial actions in an old-growth strategy, including a stop to harvesting in nine areas of the province totalling 350,000 hectares. The province announced as well an intention to work with indigenous leaders, industry, environmental groups, community organizations and local governments to discuss recommendations in the report and implications of those recommendations.

The province said it will begin “work to address information gaps, update inventory and improve public access to information, and bring management of old forests into compliance with existing provincial targets and guidelines.”

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