Blockade to remain, Tolko to go to court

Chief Fabian Alexis of the Okanagan Indian Band says the current blockade near the Brown's Creek Watershed will remain while both sides of the issue talk to their lawyers.

The OIB set up a blockade at 7 a.m. Monday morning to prevent Tolko Industries from logging in the area, which they say they have a legal right to do.

The two sides have been wrangling over the watershed for years, a watershed that Alexis says is the primary water system for most of the band's 1,800 residents.

"What concerns us is...unlike municipal water sources, our water source does not enjoy legislative protection, the standards for logging near a municipal water source do not apply," says Alexis.

Alexis says Tolko representatives approached the blockade Monday morning at 9:30 a.m. to inform band members that logging equipment and personnel were 15 k.m. away and to ask if they would be let through.

Alexis says Tolko was told they would not be let through and refused to accept several copies of an injunction Tolko tried to present.

"The meeting was very cordial, we shook hands before and after we talked," says Alexis.

Tolko officials left, saying they were going to consult with their lawyers. Alexis says OIB will be doing the same.

Mark Tamas, Okanagan Regional Woodlands Manager for Tolko, agreed the meeting was cordial and that Tolko will be heading back to court to ask for an enforcement order on the logging permits they were issued two and a half years ago by the province.

Tamas says Tolko believes they have satisfied all the requirements the Supreme Court asked of them before they were allowed to move forward with logging, including logging the area up to government standards to protect the watershed.

Tamas adds the lumber to be harvested, most of which is Mountain Pine Beetle-killed or infested, is continuing to degrade. "Time is of the essence," he says, adding they plan to reforest the area.

OIN has used blockades before, cutting off access to the area in October of 2009.

In the meantime, Alexis says the blockade will remain in place and they are reaching out to other First Nations communities in the area to help block access to the area through other roads and paths.

Alexis says he's hoping members of the general public will also help by calling their MLAs and MPs to express their support.

More Vernon News