A march and rally for sustainable BC forestry garnered a crowd of upwards of 100 at Charles Hoey Park Friday afternoon.

The event, organized by the Pulp, Paper, and Woodworkers of Canada Public and the Ancient Forest Alliance, and attended by folks from up and down the Island, had a message for the provincial government: exported logs equals exported jobs and that’s not acceptable.

“If you’re going to cut a tree down and give it to somebody else, leave the goddamn thing in the ground,” PPWC president Arnie Bercov told the group. “Leave it in the ground. Let it get bigger. Let your kids take it.”

He said it’s not that far away from election time and the province better take notice.

“It’s hugely important that we make these changes and that we stand up for ourselves,” Bercov said, noting the protestors want the return of local mills and jobs to the industry.

“We are going to make sure that our kids don’t have to go up to Fort Mac or the oil fields…they should be able to get a job here, learn a trade, raise a family and do all the things that most of us got to do. We’re not asking for the world, we’re saying give us fair treatment, give the environment fair treatment, give the workers fair treatment,” Bercov added.

“We’re not going to lose this fight, you guys. We are not going to lose this fight. If we have to build every goddamn sawmill ourselves in this province, we’re going to do it.”

Ancient Forest Alliance executive director Ken Wu explained it was the BC Liberals that took sawmills away from the workers in the first place.

“In 2004, at a critical juncture, as the majority of the prime old growth forests were logged out and huge areas of second growth forest matured, the BC Liberal government removed the local milling requirement that would have required that the licensees for the Crown lands would have had to convert their old growth mills to handle second growth logs,” Wu said. “But, at that critical time they removed the requirement through the so-called Forestry Revitalization Act, then came a wave of mill closures across the province to the tune of 100 mills in the last decade here.”

Wu said in 20 years the number employed in forestry has been slashed in half, from 100,000 to about 50,000.

“There’s been no incentives and regulations by the government, no leadership by the government to ensure that there’s a sustainable value-added second growth industry even though literally 90 per cent of the forests on Vancouver Island are second growth,” Wu said.

“We are here because we have common ground on an urgent issue. We believe that we can have a sustainable forest industry, protect our last remnants of old growth forest and ensure a sustainable second growth forest industry that maintains employment levels in the industry if there was government leadership.”