I’ve been a filmmaker all my life- producing films and documentaries for over 45 years.  I’ve created, written/directed, executive produced dozens of Documentaries, TV  Specials and series, including award-winning programs for such networks as Discovery  Channel, History, BBC, PBS, CBC, ITV, Animal Planet and National Geographic.  Throughout the period, I developed a keen interest in First Nations in Canada and the  US. This interest began at childhood: growing up alongside Coast Salish people, as  my father worked with them to create some of the first Aboriginal Tourism initiatives in  British Columbia. 

Over the decades, working alongside First Nations, making films on social, cultural and  health issues we were able to create shows with societal impact…and promote positive  change. The newest exciting opportunity that has come my way is the chance to work  with Ecoflix, the world’s first environmental non-profit streaming/media service.  

In the summer of 2021, founder and CEO of Ecoflix, David Casselman, asked me to travel on behalf of Ecoflix to Fairy Creek, British Columbia on Vancouver Island.  British Columbia on Vancouver Island. The plan was to document  the battle to save Old Growth trees in British Columbia, but also to bring in a broader  perspective of global ancient forest destruction in the Amazon and elsewhere.  

The Last Stand film’s content is divided between the protest at Fairy Creek, and the  impact of industry and government on Amazonian rainforests and Asian jungles.  Environmental spokespersons like Exec. Director of Amazon Watch Leila Salazar Lopez and my colleague, famed Author/Ethnobotanist Wade Davis appear in the film to  address the issues. Celebrated Actor/Activist Peter Coyote (Ken Burns’ The West, The  Vietnam War, Hemingway, etc) narrates the documentary. Solutions to stop climate  change, including the latest cutting-edge offerings from Silicon Valley are featured in the  film.  

Growing up in the forests and mountains of British Columbia and alongside First  Nations cultures, I’ve always had a deep understanding of the precious nature of these  wild cathedral-like places. For First Nations cultures, like the Kwakwaka’wakw people,  this is the place young initiates come to for solitude, cleansing, and to face their fears:  the Hamatsa (Wildman) comes on his/her journey to pass from youth to adult and to be  welcomed back to their community. In the mid-nineties, close to Fairy Creek, I helped  the Huu-ay-aht First Nation (Nuu-chah-nulth) make the case that their precious Sarita  River (destroyed by clear-cut logging) needed to be brought back to life; the message of  this Gemini-nominated film (Canadian Emmy), was enough to convince the Federal and  BC governments to invest money into the restoration of the River habitat: hopefully  bringing back millions of salmon, plus the wolves, seals, as well as native culture itself crushed by years of oppression. This has begun to happen there, some 25 years later. As has job creation, through management of their forest resources. Film can initiate  positive societal change.

Science has known for years that while we need wood to build our houses and make  paper, we also need these massive rainforests trees to produce Oxygen for the  atmosphere and retain the carbon greenhouse gas C02. We’re at a stage on this planet  now where these places of giant trees and rich bio-diversity: magnificent ancient forests, are disappearing from the earth and all but gone in a few places. One such place, is at  Fairy Creek, British Columbia. Recent scientific studies show that less than 3% of  harvestable old growth forests remain in the province.  

A logging company- Teal Jones has been granted cut permits to rare Old Growth  Cedars & Douglas Firs in Fairy Creek, also traditional territory of Pacheedaht First  Nation, whose people are divided on logging the area. Beginning in August 2020,  activist blockades have been set up along logging roads to stop access to those sites.  Locked into “sleeping dragons” steel pipes buried in the ground, or high up in trees, or  arms linked, standing across a logging road…the Forest Defenders have been firm in  their resolve to stop the cutting of old growth.  

Our visit there to make The Last Stand documentary was intense, and Forest Defenders  known as the Rainforest Flying Squad, gave us access. The shoot began with locating  key speakers deep in the forested mountains of South-West Vancouver Island. People  had nicknames/passwords to hide their identity so that Police and other enforcers would  not know their real names. We spoke to forest supporters from as far away as Vietnam,  

Japan and India and spoke with First Nations speakers, young people from across  Canada and locals who knew these mountains well and did not want to see the  remaining Old Growth destroyed. We filmed dramatic road blockades and barriers lined  with old cars and piled logs to discourage logging trucks from passing through.  

We ended up in a dramatic camp, called “Red Dress”. Here a huge logging clear-cut dominated the landscape: an ugly stump-lined wound reaching miles up the  mountainside. It had been decorated with hundreds of dramatic red dresses by the  protestors: symbolic of the missing and murdered indigenous women, who all to often  disappear along highways (like Prince George’s Highway of Tears)- frequented by  roughnecked truckers driving logging and mining trucks- a symbol of the rape and  destruction of the land and its women. Though hard to prove definitively, the people  here, feel there is a connection of colonial oppression.  

At one stage, upon hearing the RCMP (Police) had blockaded access to the logging  roads and protestor camps to the press, our crew found itself on a steep 40-degree slope heading down into the Valley where the protest camps lay. Our small team,  including soundman Pete Wonsiak and 2nd camera/Assoc. Producer Michele Gonda  slipped, slid and crashed over ultra-steep dusty gravel and pine needle laden slopes:  culminating with even more precipitous decent. We used a rope hanging over a small  cliff/ravine to cling to as we scrambled down the rock face. Carrying packs filled with  heavy equipment we went down hand over hand on the rope, then traversed over fallen  logs and giant boulders in a dry creek bed to reach our goal. 

Peter von Puttkamer – on production in India for his wildlife series Wild Survival/Biggest & Baddest S3

Ultimately, we traveled down in the fading light as far as we could and flew our drone  over the protestor camps lining the logging roads. A wide array of additional footage  was collected over the course of editing, from brave amateur and expert camerapersons  who lived on the front lines of Fairy Creek sometimes for weeks and months in the cold  and wet, to document the conflict.  

The Last Stand documentary was made to impact people and make a difference.  Protests such as this in the past, have forced governments into saving the wilderness  areas from certain destruction.  

In presenting a broader global perspective of the epic Protest to Save the Big Trees at  Fairy Creek, we showed how these efforts, no matter where they are, or how long they  last, can all make an impact. A strong message from peaceful protestors can tell corporations and the powers that be worldwide, that the people will not stand for the  final destruction of the world’s much needed forests.  

Everyone involved in this struggle understands that we need wood in our societies for a  lot of purposes. Ok, maybe we don’t need to cut down giant trees to make toilet paper,  which is the case in North America. So, there is a limit. Even the most fervent  protestors we spoke do agreed that this is a battle not against logging, but for the  Ancient Trees: huge groves of pristine rainforest that hold carbon and nurture incredible  biodiversity. The Last Stand is a plea from people on the front lines who want to make  a difference and stop the cutting of these precious and pristine green places.  

Fairy Creek, BC

The Last Stand can be streamed from 22nd April on Ecoflix.com


  • Peter von Puttkamer

    For over 30 years, Peter Von Puttkamer has written/directed dozens of award-winning wildlife/adventure programs for global media. Now premiering: an impactful film produced for a new environmental streaming service— Ecoflix.