Unis'tot'en Camp braces for winter
Four years ago, grassroots members of the Wet'suwet'en people of northern BC (western Canada) found out about oil and gas pipeline projects that are planned to cross their territory without permission.
The indigenous leaders of Unis'tot'en Camp began turning away oil and gas company workers over a year ago. The land defenders set up a "soft blockade" to keep out the corporations, and started building a camp and permanent homes in the pipeline route. A large log cabin now houses the defenders and volunteers, while several pithouses are still under construction.
Winter is bearing down on Unis'tot'en Camp, and the hosts are scrambling to prepare for the coming storms. The camp was on high alert in November after two incidents of attempted arson on bridges near the camp at the end of October.
People all over Turtle Island are responding to the call for support and funds for security equipment. The camp is also calling for strong-hearted volunteers to watch over the camp and patrol the area this winter.
- be willing to to travel to the camp and stay for two weeks or more
- have experience and gear for winter hiking
- be able to chop wood, carry water, and watch for intruders
The oil and gas representatives and police have made a couple forays into the territory, but so far they have avoided starting a full-scale confrontation.
Donations will supply the camp with security cameras, motion sensors, night-vision equipment, and an all-terrain snowmobile to patrol the territory and watch for invaders.
The success of the camp jeopardizes oil and gas deals supposedly worth billions of dollars (plus the untold costs of spills and leaks, poisoned water, lost habitat, and human suffering). We know there is a risk of dirty tricks and intimidation tactics to try and scare the campers away. The more support we give, the less likely those tactics will work.
Winter camp in the path of the pipelines
Winter is coming to Unis'tot'en Camp, and a crew is working to finish the roofs and walls on two traditional-style pithouses so visitors stay snug and warm when the snow comes.
The blockade camp is on guard every day. Hundreds of good-hearted people are contributing their time, labour, and funds to make this community what it is today - a force to be reckoned with. Please support the winter camp!
At this point, it looks like one of the pipeline projects that was "approved" to go through Wet'suwet'en territory has fallen drastically behind schedule. There's no official announcement yet, but work was supposed to start in earnest a year ago. Could it be all the publicity and support for the Unis'tot'en blockade in the pipelines right-of-way scared the investors away? Or did we slow them down enough that a competitor beat them to the finish line? Stay tuned!
Protect the Sacred Headwaters from coal mining
The Sacred Headwaters is the birthplace of Stikine, Nass, and Skeena, three of Northern BC’s major salmon-bearing rivers. Thousands of people from the northern interior to the coast depend on these watersheds for their livelihood and for the well-being of their families and communities. Now Fortune Minerals is actively test-drilling Klappan Mountain for an environmental assessment for a coal mine in the heart of the Sacred Headwaters.
Sign the petition. Pledge to join the Klabona Keepers. Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition
Photo: Rally in Victoria, August 31, 2013 by Ann Jacobs
Unis'tot'en defenders evict another pipeline crew from indigenous land
Great news: The caravan is back from the no-pipelines blockade at Unis'tot'en Camp and it was amazing. Thank you to everyone who helped make it happen! It's great to see our circle expanding. The caravan was only the beginning - the real solidarity work is still ahead of us.
A few days after the caravan left, the camp came under more pressure from pipeline companies trying to push into unceded indigenous territory. On July 19, the Unis'tot'en defenders evicted yet another pipeline crew from the territory. This time it was a two-person team that came in by helicopter.
This is the third time the defenders have sent surveyors packing and warned them not to come back. It seems the higher-ups have decided to ignore the warnings.
We're ramping up to support the defenders. It looks like they are going to need all the help they can get. Here's what we're planning this summer and fall:
- Backcountry hiking and mapping
- Renewing the legal defense fund
- Benefit events for the camp
Join us! We're getting ready to respond when there's a call for a day of action. It's a great opportunity to get with friends and build the resistance to pipelines and oil tankers.
Make a pledge to stop the pipelines.
Big cheers to everyone who contributed to support the caravan. Thank you for being part of this growing movement.
Grassroots Wet'suwet'en people vs. the pipelines
The latest pipeline proposal for the "Energy Corridor" between Prince George and Kitimat has shifted the route to pass south of Unis'tot'en Camp.
Center: Wedzin Kwah (Morice River), the point where grassroots Wet'suwet'en people are making a stand to stop pipeline companies from entering their unceded territory.
Top to bottom: Unis'tot'en Camp (star), Morice River West Forest Service Road (white line), fracking pipelines Pacific Trail (red) and Coastal Gas (blue); Enbridge Northern Gateway tar sands pipeline (black).
Last year, indigenous activists built two homes on the pipeline route on the bank of Wedzin Kwah. This year, the activists are expanding the defense of their land.
The last time a pipeline surveying crew tried to come in was November 2012. The crews were given trespass notices and escorted back across the bridge, off Unis'tot'en Clan land.
Harper's wrecking crew
Last year, 2.5 million lakes and waterways were protected in Canada.
Today that total is 62 rivers and 93 lakes.
The San Juan River is not one of them.
The San Juan River is home to four salmon runs, ducks, geese, swans, otters, seals, and eagles.
Goldstream River and its salmon runs are no longer protected.
Cowichan River and its salmon runs are no longer protected.
Cowichan Lake and its fish habitat are no longer protected.
Chemainus River and its salmon runs are no longer protected.
Sooke River and its salmon runs are no longer protected.
In 2012, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Omnibus Budget stripped away the rules that protected our rivers, lakes, and habitat for decades.
Now, entire ecosystems can be bulldozed, blasted, and paved over without consultation.
That's just one reason why indigenous people are rising up across the country.
Now is the time for all of us to defend the land, the water, the animals, and all living things.
Stand with the defenders of the Wild Coast.
Photos: San Juan River by Zoe Blunt
Indigenous people in the path of the pipelines are evicting oil and gas crews from their land. Last summer, the Lhe Le Liyin defenders and the Unis'tot'en and Likhts’amisyu clans of the Wet'suwet'en First Nation put out a call for solidarity to stop the clearing and bulldozing of the pipeline route. We responded with a busload of volunteers and a convoy from BC, Ontario, Alberta, Colorado and the NW US, and we helped build the no-pipelines camp.
Support the action camp to stop the pipelines
Tar sands oil threatens land, water, human rights, wild salmon, migratory birds, shellfish beds, and all interior, marine and coastal species.
A more immediate threat than tarsands pipelines, the Pacific Trail pipeline would carry liquefied natural gas from the fracking fields of eastern BC to Kitimat for export. Pacific Trail would pump flammable LNG along much of the same route as the Enbridge line, through wetlands, forests, streams and wildlife habitat. The fracking pipeline was approved in spring 2012, and Pacific Trail announced work would start this fall. Crews started surveying along the Morice River earlier this year.
Win for Juan de Fuca Park
It was epic! Three days of public hearings, 250 speakers, and over 400 submissions — all but a few opposed. Testimonials came from Sooke, Jordan River, Otter Point, East Sooke, Port Renfrew, Pacheedaht First Nation, Metchosin, Shirley, Victoria, Langford, Saanich, Duncan, Cowichan, Vancouver, Ontario, even Israel and Belgium.
The following day, one after the other, three of the five committee members announced they were changing their votes to stop the vacation home development at Juan de Fuca Marine Trail Park.
The vote on September 14 was unanimous.
We won by shifting the balance toward the public interest. We won because hundreds of people came together to declare their commitment to protecting the forestlands. Politicians, newspapers, radio, and television heard you loud and clear. Congratulations!
But the Juan de Fuca development proposal is only a symptom. The deeper problem lies with a small group of landowners who think they're entitled to profit at the expense of parks and livability. We defeated this proposal. But what about the next one, and the one after that?
Going forward: Time to restore sanity and the public interest to land-use decisions.
- Restore watersheds and wildlife habitat
- Stop logging in old-growth ecosystems
- Protect forestlands and wildlife
- Respect indigenous land rights
- Preserve our parks
Where we stand: Vancouver Island's natural heritage
Mapping the Wild Coast
Students and community groups are working together for a new land-use vision on the south coast of Vancouver Island. The community mapping project focuses on the public's interest in preserving forestlands, rivers, and creeks. From Port Renfrew to Sooke and beyond, residents and visitors can witness the far-reaching effects of clearcut logging on the landscape, water, and wildlife. Support our work mapping old-growth groves and special places before it's too late.
Thanks to all these good folks, without whom this work would not be possible:
- The Environmental Dispute Resolution Fund at West Coast Environmental Law
- The Environmental Law Clinic at the University of Victoria
- The People's Trust
- Vancouver Island Public Interest Research Group
- Our lawyers, Irene Faulkner and Robin Gage
- Hundreds of people from Langford, Victoria and the South Island
Evidence of karst found at Avatar Grove
July 14, 2010 - There's more than meets the eye in Avatar Grove. This strange forest of twisted giants near Port Renfrew, BC may be home to ecologically-sensitive karst (limestone formations) as well as huge gnarly trees. Researchers with Vancouver Island Community Forest Action Network (VIC FAN ) have documented landscape features that appear to be karst bluffs or outcrops and karst streams.
"If our initial karst survey is confirmed, we have a compelling case for permanently protecting this grove," said Shayn McAskin, mapping coordinator for VIC FAN.
The surprise discovery could halt plans to log the massive, gnarled trees on Crown land along the Gordon River two hours west of Victoria.
"I expect we'll find the largest trees are growing on karst terrain, and they should be protected by the 2010 provincial order for karst," McAskin said.
McAskin, a second-year environmental technology student at Camosun College, spotted limestone formations during a VIC FAN field trip to the grove in June. Subsequent research turned up evidence of karst potential from first-hand observation and in provincial geology maps.
VIC FAN director Zoe Blunt said, "We have advised Teal Jones, the company that was planning to log the grove, about the consequences of damaging protected karst features. They have all the information we've gathered so far, and we'll be following up with more detailed reports as the surveys continue."
New map is a community project
A resident of Langford, McAskin is the author and primary researcher for the Baird Creek/Avatar Grove map, released today by the Wild Coast Mapping Project and VIC FAN. Two dozen students and Island residents have contributed their time and energy to this grassroots project so far this year. The map initiative aims to cover the southwest coast of Vancouver Island from Sooke to Port Renfrew, relying largely on local knowledge and first-hand observation to highlight world-record-size trees, salmon and trout habitat, drinking watersheds, rare species, and recreation areas.
Forest Action Network’s mapping project is carried out with the generous support of a community involvement grant from Mountain Equipment Co-op.
Langford Development: Out of control
In March 2010, the BC Supreme Court heard our challenge to aggressive development in Langford. The proposed South Skirt Mountain development, like its neighbour Bear Mountain Resort, would destroy 5,000-year-old native heritage sites and untouched garry oak and arbutus ecosystems. Langford city council suppressed archeology assessments of the site, bullied and abused citizens at a public hearing, and refused to allow discussion about the unfunded "Bridge to Nowhere" - an integral part of the development.
Two sacred caves have already been destroyed by Bear Mountain Resort and the Bear Mountain Interchange.
Vancouver Island Community Forest Action Network, a local non-profit environmental group, petitioned BC Supreme Court to quash the bylaw for due process violations.
Western Forest Products Open House "Hijacked"
Western Forests Products, the company attempting to turn thousands of hectares of forest land into subdivision development, held an open house on September 9, 2008 in the town of Shirley, BC.
VIC FAN volunteers, along with members of Dogwood Initiative and other environmental activists from the region took control of the event and turned it into a public meeting, a move the media has been calling 'guerrilla organizing'.
Hundreds attended this spontaneous rally, demanding that WFP withdraw their subdivision application and help facilitate more public participation in forest land management decisions.
For its part, WFP sent a lone representative to its own event; chief operating officer Duncan Kerr, who is slowly learning that destruction of forest lands in this region is something the public will not tolerate.
VIC FAN volunteers are committed to keeping this issue in the public eye, collecting comments, information, scientific data, and being on the ground to witness the violations that this company are committing, such as unapproved subdivision work in the Sandcut Creek area.
Keep visiting this site for the latest on this issue.
See the mainstream media's story of VIC FAN's 'guerrilla organizing'.
Forest Land or Urban Sprawl? Who decides?
We are walking along the bed of a stream older than any European settlement on this island. The water is clear and bright, I dip my cup in and feel perfectly refreshed. We are on the site of a proposed suburban development put forward by Western Forest Products near Jordan River. Although the project has yet to be approved work appears to be continuing here none the less. We reach some flagging tape marking the point where WFP wishes to put a residential street, one of many that will crisscross this stream.
The CRD has passed a bylaw that prevents the subdivision of this land into small parcels specifically to prevent this type of development, however Oak Bay-Gordon Head MLA Ida Chong sat on it just long enough for WFP to get their land use application in. They have therefore saved themselves from these conditions through a grandfather clause.
For an overview of the Jordan River Land Transfer Controversy, visit www.savejordanriver.com
VIC FAN: On The Ground in Juan de Fuca
VIC FAN volunteers have joined the broad coalition of First Nations, environmental, community, recreational and business groups that have been working to stop the subdivision of thousands of hectares of forest in the Juan de Fuca forestlands.
VIC FAN's work in the field enhances and supports the work being done to protect these forests by surveying the lands on the ground, identifying species and risk and compiling scientific data and public testimonials.
VIC FAN volunteers make regular excursions in and around the proposed subdivision lands to assess the progress of work being done and to document the impacts on the land.
Our goals are to provide logistical support and information to those opposing development in the area and to build a picture of the forest ecology in this region, to create a sense of connection to this land and share with others the joy of learning about the natural world around us.
If you share a connection to and love of this forest land, know of sensitive areas you'd like to see surveyed and assessed, or just want to share your thoughts, opinions and feelings about this area, please send us an email at moc.liamg|noitcatserof#moc.liamg|noitcatserof, or participate in our online discussion forum.
VIC FAN's work is driven by the needs and demands of the people most closely connected to the land. Your advice, opinions and suggestions determine where we conduct our research.
Please consider supporting the work we do with a donation. At this time we are completely volunteer driven, and funds for the program go towards outfitting our field camps and excursions and transporting volunteers into the field. We would also like to be able to provide compensation to scientists, First Nations elders and other local experts who take time to join us on these expeditions and help us with our work.
Volunteers are also welcome to join us, regardless of your level of ecological knowledge. A love of the land is essential.