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Environmentalists Stand with Nuxalk Nation to Protect the Great Bear Rainforest

(BELLA COOLA, British Columbia) Friday, 6 June, 1997 -- Today four environmental groups joined people of the Nuxalk Nation in blockading International Forest Products' logging operations on Ista, a rainforest valley sacred to the Nuxalk people. Today's activities follow yesterday's protest by Nuxalk hereditary chiefs and people, at which time head hereditary chief Lawrence Pootlass invited environmentalists to help the Nuxalk protect the rainforest.

Since dawn this morning, Nuxalk people, members of the Forest Action Network, Greenpeace, Bear Watch and PATH (approximately 70 people in total) are blockading the main logging road under a banner which read "Standing Together to Protect the Great Bear Rainforest". The road is the only access point to all road building and clearcutting operations in the valley.

"When they clearcut our ancient rainforests they clearcut the Nuxalk culture. As they clearcut Ista, which is sacred to the Nuxalk, they are clearcutting our history," said head hereditary chief Lawrence Pootlass. "We acknowledge and respect the commitment of these four environmental groups to protecting the ancient rainforests. We have extended an official invitation to these group by way of a protocol (1)."

Interfor has already clearcut three cutblocks this year on Ista and plans to clear 11 more areas in the next three years. They have the rights to log at least seven more of the remaining intact valleys in Nuxalk territory within the next 10 years.

"It is only by people joining together that we have a chance to protect the last of the world's temperate rainforest," said Tamara Stark of Greenpeace. "If we stand by now, if our voices remain silent, within a decade there will be little rainforest left to fight for."

"Today's protest illustrates that a growing number of groups are refusing to accept Interfor's destruction of the rainforest and their complete disrespect for the wishes of the Nuxalk people," said Gavin Edwards of the Forest Action Network.

In 1994, the elected Band Council asked Interfor to stop clearcutting on Nuxalk land and in 1995 the head hereditary chief asked them not to clearcut the sacred rainforests of Ista. Interfor refused and 21 people were subsequently arrested for trying to protect these lands. International Forest Products is the second largest company logging the rainforest, and have licenses to log the largest number of intact rainforest valleys on the coast. Approximately half these valleys will be roaded or logged within five years.

The Great Bear Rainforest is the largest contiguous unprotected rainforest in British Columbia and is a forest of global ecological significance. Satellite mapping recently carried out by the World Resources Institute shows that half of the world's temperate rainforest has already been destroyed and that temperate rainforests are more endangered than tropical rainforests.


Members of the environmental groups and the Nuxalk Nation on site, via the Greenpeace ship the Moby Dick: 011-872-624-628-410

Greg Higgs, Forest Action Network: 250-799-5800 Tzeporah Berman, Patrick Anderson, Greenpeace: 1 604-253-7701, 1 604-220-7701 (cell) Nuxalk Nation House of Smayusta: 250-799-5376