The Fairy Creek old-growth blockade is heading into winter hibernation mode but the search remains ongoing for two activists missing in the remote region on southeast Vancouver Island.

The Rainforest Flying Squad — the grassroots coalition behind the old-growth blockades — recently broke down the last of its publicly accessible camps due to extreme winter conditions.

The Roadside Camp near the intersection of Granite Main logging road and Pacific Marine Road is now closed to the public, the RFS said in a press release Monday.

A smaller remote camp with Indigenous land defenders and some long-haul forest protectors will stay, but any other occupants will need an invitation by Pacheedaht elder Bill Jones or youth leader Whale-tail Jones, who oppose any old-growth logging in their nation’s territory.

“We’re definitely not giving up, we’re just shifting tactics with the winter and the snow that is blocking (logging activity) for us,” said Shawna Knight, a long-time activist who will stay at the remaining camp.

The public camp is also being temporarily closed for safety reasons because of the hazardous weather and poor driving conditions, Knight said.

In the meantime, RFS supporters have used the past month to break down camp structures, haul out garbage, and gather up and store supplies and resources in preparation for the start of logging season in the spring, she said.

Search still on for missing forest defenders

"If the government’s not going to legislate protection on these trees, it’s the job of the citizens of Canada, isn’t it?” #FairyCreek activist Shawna Knight says about a small camp holding some ground until #OldGrowth protests begin in the spring.

But efforts to find two missing forest defenders, Bear Henry and Gerald ‘Smiley’ Kearney, are ongoing, said search volunteer Shelia McFarland.

Henry, a two-spirit person of Cowichan and Penelakut descent, was last heard from after texting loved ones from the Lake Cowichan area Nov. 27, McFarland said.

Their older two-tone Dodge van was last seen near the Honeymoon Bay Ecological Reserve east of Lake Cowichan and it’s believed the 37-year-old was headed towards Fairy Creek, McFarland said.

A core group of searchers continues to scour roads in the extensive wilderness area as often as weather allows, and two helicopter searches have been done, with a third planned as soon as funds are raised, she said.

A vigil took place to buoy the spirits of Henry’s friends and family on Jan. 8 in Victoria, McFarland said.

“It was beautiful and went on for about four hours in the rain,” she said.

“Bear has such a wide group of people who care for them because they are kind and for their work in outreach.”

It’s possible Henry’s van had some sort of road mishap or got stranded, McFarland said, adding she was holding out hope they would be found.

“We’re trying to find backwoods cabins that might be on roads an old two-wheel drive van could drive,” she said, adding Henry is accustomed to spending time in the backwoods and likely has supplies and gear.

Kearney, 61, missing since Oct. 13, was last seen in the upper elevations of the Fairy Creek watershed after setting out to walk between two blockade camps, McFarland said.

A check of the area by search and rescue and RCMP teams paired with a drone and a police dog failed to find anything.

The terrain is too treacherous to allow searches until the weather improves in the spring, McFarland said.

However, it’s hoped anyone in the area such as hunters, snowmobilers, or industry workers will see something that might help locate Henry or Kearney and will alert the Lake Cowichan RCMP, she said.

While RFS supporters are hoping a court appeal of logging company Teal-Jones’ continued injunction against the blockades in its forestry tenures is successful, protests are likely to surge again come summer regardless of any legal outcome, Knight said.

More than 1,100 people have been arrested defending the region’s old-growth trees, Knight said.

“People will be there, ready and waiting,” she said.

“Because if the government’s not going to legislate protection on these trees, it’s the job of the citizens of Canada, isn’t it?”

Rochelle Baker / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada’s National Observer

Updates and corrections

| Corrections policy
January 19, 2022, 04:40 pm

This article was corrected to identify Shelia McFarland as a search volunteer, not as a RFS supporter as was previously indicated.

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