Environmentalists defend old forest in Clayoquot Sound, B.C., Canada, 1993

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Time Period:  
Location and Goals
Location City/State/Province: 
Clayoquot Sound, British Columbia
Location Description: 
Clayoquot Peace Camp
To stop the government and logging company, MacMillan Bloedel from clear-cutting the Clayoquot Sound Forest.

On the western coast of Vancouver Island, fir, cedar and spruce trees fill the rainforest of Clayoquot Sound, one of the last, large, untouched forests in British Columbia (B.C.). In April of 1993, Michael Harcourt, the province's premier, announced that logging companies, mainly MacMillan Bloedel, had the permission to clear-cut, a logging process of cutting down trees, sixty two percent of Clayoquot land. Harcourt argued that his decision exemplified how industry and environment could work together.

Environmentalists in Clayoquot argued that clear cutting destroys the original forest ecosystem, which leads to habitat loss, soil erosion, bare mountains, landslides and devastated fish streams. The Nuu-chah-nulth First Nation, a group of aboriginal Canadians, joined the side of the local environmentalists to stand against clear cutting. However, the aboriginal and non-native organizers disagreed on an appropriate approach to stop clear-cutting. Although the Nuu-chah-nulth sympathized with Clayoquot environmentalists, they refrained from becoming closely involved in the blockades.

In response to MacMillan Bloedel, Clayoquot locals formed the Friends of Clayoquot Sound. They started as a grassroots campaign and later acquired other groups to help their cause such as Greenpeace and Forest Ethics. They first acted by targeting buyers of B.C. wood. At first, the mayor and city council supported environmentalists and natives because the clear cuts were visible from the town, causing a decrease in tourism.

Protests emerged in the spring and summer of 1993. Influenced by Gandhian principles of non-violence and emerging eco-feminist thought, protesters operated with a Peaceful Direct Action Code. The local protests were centered on the Clayoquot Peace Camp set up by the Friends of Clayoquot Sound on Canada Day, July 1, 1993. 11,000 people visited the camp during the summer, and around 200 people lived in the Peace Camp at one time. The camp offered workshops and became a place for protesters to gather information.

Protests continued to emerge throughout the summer of 1993. Protesters physically blocked logging trucks from getting to clear cutting sites, violating a court ruling obtained by MacMillan Bloedel. They hoped to rally crowds to block the road-building crews to prevent the destruction of the forest. Protesters distributed flyers, held up signs and banners with slogans, and even chained themselves to bulldozers, camped out in trees, and engaged in sit-ins to prevent MacMillan Bloedel from clear cutting. The protests resulted in a high number of arrests. At the height of the protests, police arrested 300 people in one day. The police dragged and carried protesters out of sit-ins, and in total, police arrested over 860 protesters.

Radical environmentalists drove 20,000 big metal spikes into Clayoquot trees to deter loggers from cutting down the trees. This tactic also aimed to destroy MacMillan Bloedel chainsaws or circular saws if loggers attempted to cut down the trees. While the protesters meant to tree-spike to prevent clear cutting, workers feared injury or death from metal splinters.

Protesters invited musical celebrities and gave a concert that drew five thousand people to the remote protest site. MTV broadcasted the concert, which was subsequently covered by CNN and both national and international newspapers. This turned out to be one of the three days during that summer when MacMillan Bloedel stopped logging. In response to the concert, a pro-clear-cutting group also held a music rally to promote their ideas. During that summer, more than 30 of Canada's best-known authors and Hollywood stars such as Oliver Stone, Tom Cruise, Barbara Streisand and Robert Redford spoke out to condemn clear cutting. In addition, the publishing house Knopf Canada, one of Canada's largest school boards, and some of Germany's largest publishing houses publicly announced their preference and use of clear-cut-free paper. While protests occurred, American organizations sent out a mailing list to the country's largest newspaper, magazine, and phone directory publishers, urging them to end business ties to MacMillan Bloedel.

The Peace Camp closed in October of 1993, and the first of eight mass trials of protesters began. The government argued that protesters violated the injunction that allowed MacMillan Bloedel to clear-cut. The government persecuted the 860 protesters in eight trials. The government charged them with criminal contempt and the judge ruled them all guilty. The sentences of the 860 protesters reached up to 45 days in jail and fines of $3,000.

In response to the actions of protesters, the B.C. government created a panel of First Nations people and scientists to determine what ought to qualify as acceptable logging in Clayoquot Sound. The panel of First Nations and environmentalists forced the province and the logging companies to negotiate future plans. This discussion resulted in A Memorandum of Understanding, which served as a compromise to protect a small part of Clayoquot Sound in exchange for an end to the protests. However, Friends of Clayoquot Sound refused to sign the agreement because it still allowed logging in most of the remaining untouched forests of Clayoquot Sound.

In the subsequent years environmentalists continued to express their opinions about forestry policy in Clayoquot Sound. The protests of 1993 prompted environmental groups to support their cause and got people thinking about the implications of clear-cutting. The environmentalists and the government and logging companies continue to debate about their perspectives on the economy and the environment.

Research Notes

Gandhi's principles of non-violence and emerging eco-feminist thought (1)

- Anonymous. "Tree Mischief." The Economist 327.7809 (1993): 41. ProQuest. Web. 9 Feb. 2011.

- Ceric, Irina. "Clayoquot Sound." The International Encyclopedia of Revolution and Protest. Ness, Immanuel (ed). Blackwell Publishing, 2009. Blackwell Reference Online. 11 February 2011

- "Clayoquot Sound." Clayoquot Sound - A Temperate Rainforest Under Threat. Green Peace. Web. 09 Feb. 2011. <http://archive.greenpeace.org/comms/cbio/clayback.html>.

- Clayoquot Sound 1993. Youtube, 10 June 2008. Web. 9 Feb. 2011. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ENq0RmaCep0>.

- Green Peace. Activists Blockade Logging in B.C's Clayoquot Sound, Target U.S. Customers. Macmillan Bloedel Violates Rainforest Protection Agreement. Green Peace, 21 June 1996. Web. 9 Feb. 2011. <http://archive.greenpeace.org/comms/cbio/prfju21b.html>.

- Green Peace. Green Peace's Campaign To Protect Clayoquot Sound Will Continue--- Despite Supreme Court Ruling. Green Peace, 22 Aug. 1996. Web. 9 Feb. 2011. <http://archive.greenpeace.org/comms/cbio/prfaug22c.html>.

- Green Peace. Protest Highlights Ongoing Destruction of Temperate Rainforest. Activists Blockade Logging Operation In Clayoquot Sound. Green Peace, 20 June 1996. Web. 9 Feb. 2011. <http://archive.greenpeace.org/comms/cbio/prfjun20.html>.

- "Http://zoeblunt.wordpress.com/2009/11/18/clayoquot-sound-opened-for-logging/." Web log post. Love Letters and Hate Mail. Zoe Blunt, 18 Nov. 2009. Web. 9 Feb. 2011. <http://zoeblunt.wordpress.com/2009/11/18/clayoquot-sound-opened-for-logging/>.

- Magnusson, Warren, and Karena Shaw. A Political Space: Reading the Global through Clayoquot Sound. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 2003. Print.

- Pralle, Sarah Beth. Branching Out, Digging In: Environmental Advocacy and Agenda Setting. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown UP, 2006. Print.

Additional Notes: 
The time frame of this case encompasses the major protests of 1993 in Clayoquot Sound. Environmentalists debated with the government before and after this time period, but this case is an important highlight to the larger issue of forestry policies in Clayoquot Sound.

Edited by Max Rennebohm (13/06/2011)

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Nicole Vanchieri, 14/02/2011