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Guerilla arborists plant protest forest for Earth Day

Earth Day was celebrated in Delta today by the creation of a protest camp and the replanting of some of the forest that has been clear cut on the right of way of the South Fraser Freeway

"We are trying to build a movement to turn up the heat on politicians so we can turn down the heat in the planet's climate," Eric Doherty told The Tyee this afternoon, as he and a group of over 200 demonstrators prepared to execute what was promoted as a day of "mass direct action against climate crime."

Rallying at the Annieville store in a historic North Delta fishing community, the crowd was preparing to march to the right of way of the South Fraser Freeway, a controversial road building project that is part of the larger Gateway project. Doherty is a member of Stop the Pave, the organizers of the Earth Day direct action. Stop the Pave describes itself as "…a movement for better transit, not freeways."

The day’s activity, Doherty told The Tyee, would include digging up the right of way of the disputed freeway and planting over 200 fir and cedar seedlings and 25 larger trees where the highway pavement is supposed to be poured. Other sponsors of the day include the Council of Canadians,, and the Critical Criminology Working Group.

Some of the demonstrators are prepared to risk arrest to plant the trees, Doherty said. The leaflet that was circulated throughout the Lower Mainland to promote the direct action argues:

"Despite these negative impacts and a high level of resistance from affected communities, construction is now beginning. Our action will emphasize the need to shift resources from climate crimes like freeways to solutions like public transit."

The organizers of the Earth Day action say the freeway expansion will be costly, at over $2 billion; will increase greenhouse gas emissions and thus climate change/global warming; will pave over valuable farmland; and will destroy Burns Bog, the "lungs of the Lower Mainland."

Reached later in the afternoon at the protest site, local beekeeper PJ Lilley told The Tyee she was supporting the protest because she is concerned about the devastating health and environmental impacts of the freeway.

"We're concerned about air pollution, the destruction of salmon streams, the choking off of Burns Bog and the loss of access to our riverfront," Lilley said."“We've got to stop this."

Another protest organizer, Carmen Mills, told The Tyee that some of the protesters were pitching tents as a police helicopter hovered overhead.

"We intend to stay here until they carry us away," she declared.

Tom Sandborn welcomes feedback and story tips at [email protected]

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