A Watershed Moment at the Fairy Creek Watershed? B.C. Forestry Policy and Punctuated Equilibrium Theory

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Legree, Davis
Forest policy , Fairy Creek , Clayoquot , War in the Woods
Logging protests at Clayoquot Sound (1993) and at Fairy Creek (2021) targeted the harvest of old-growth trees in BC’s temperate rainforest. This paper examines these protests through the lens of punctuated equilibrium theory (PET) and evaluate their impact on provincial forestry regulations. Combining PET with a timeline analysis approach, this study contrasts the Fairy Creek protests with those that occurred at Clayoquot Sound a generation earlier. In both cases, the protests were linked to policy response in order to determine if a directional shift or ‘punctuation’ in B.C.’s forestry policy could be seen. It was determined that the Fairy Creek blockades have not yet led to major changes in B.C. forestry policy; by contrast, the events at Clayoquot Sound did result in rapid change in forest policy, satisfying the requirements to be labelled a ‘punctuating moment.’ The Fairy Creek protests failed to meet these criteria, possibly due to the relatively localized impact of these events - unlike Clayoquot Sound, Fairy Creek did not draw an international response. Notably, the objectives of the Fairy Creek blockade’s organizers in terms of desired policy changes essentially replicated the issues addressed following Clayoquot Sound, which meant that government response in the former case was incremental rather than punctuated. Unlike Clayoquot Sound, the Fairy Creek blockades should not be considered a watershed moment, but rather an individual manifestation of the deep-rooted conflict within the province’s logging industry. This paper’s findings have significant implications with regards to the evolution of forestry policy in B.C., as well as the potential for acts of civil disobedience to influence change in the sector.
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