An aerial view of Clayoquot Sound, on the west coast of Vancouver Island, BC.
Life in Clayoquot An aerial view of Clayoquot Sound, on the west coast of Vancouver Island, BC. © Bryan Evans

Newsroom

Government of Canada Commits to Advancing Indigenous-Led Conservation in Clayoquot Sound

Funding through Canada’s $100M Natural Heritage Conservation Program will protect 120,000 hectares of vital old-growth forest and coastline

Victoria, BC

Clayoquot Sound lies in the territories of Ahousaht and Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations. Nature United is supporting these communities in developing and advancing Land Use Visions that reflect their cultural, economic and environmental priorities. Visions that include transitioning a collective 120,000 hectares into protected status to support sustainable, culturally-appropriate economic development that creates more certainty for these communities’ future in addition to benefiting British Columbia, Canada, and the world beyond.

The Government of Canada’s announcement this week to support these First Nations’ visions and establish protected areas covering the majority of Clayoquot Sound is an important step in recognizing Indigenous authority, protecting vital old-growth forest and coastline, and making progress towards the federal commitment to conserve 17 percent of land and 10 percent of oceans in Canada by 2020.

Nature United looks forward to supporting the First Nations as they work with the federal government and Government of British Columbia to fully embrace the visions of the First Nations and complete co-establishment of the new protected areas.

“On behalf of the Ahousaht Hawiih (Hereditary Chiefs) and all of our Ahousaht Membership, I want to express my sincerest appreciation to the Federal Government and Nature United for recognizing the importance of protecting our Hahoulthee (lands and waters),”  says Lewis George, Hereditary Chief of the Ahousaht Nation. “Our approach to stewardship of our Hahoulthee  is critical for us not to leave a negative footprint for the seven generations that will follow us. Today is a wonderful day to celebrate Indigenous values.”

“We thank the federal government for prioritizing Indigenous stewardship in Clayoquot Sound,” says Saya Masso, Manager of Lands and Resources for the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation. “This commitment will give us the means to enact our land use visions in partnership with the BC government and to the benefit of our communities and all Canadians.”

“Indigenous Nations are the best positioned to protect and care for their lands and waters, where they have lived for thousands of years,” says Hadley Archer, Executive Director of Nature United. “This visionary federal funding will support the Ahousaht and Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations in protecting Clayoquot Sound and we are proud to partner with them to support their visions for their territories.”

“This landmark commitment recognizes Clayoquot Sound as a special place for all Canadians and local First Nations as its rightful stewards,” says Gord Johns, Member of Parliament (Courtenay–Alberni). “I’m personally committed to helping BC, First Nations, and the federal government achieve success together.”

Today, more than 75% of Vancouver Island’s old-growth forests have been logged. Clayoquot Sound represents the last great rainforest on the island. It’s also the site of the historic “War in the Woods” in the early 1990s, in which anti-logging protests by residents, Indigenous communities and environmentalists resulted in one of Canada’s biggest acts of civil disobedience. Hundreds of people were arrested for their blockades and peaceful protests against logging the old-growth forests that protect Clayoquot Sound.

Nature United has already invested $2 million to support the Ahousaht and Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations. Our organization is also raising funds for a stewardship endowment to support ongoing management of the new protected areas.

The First Nations are now working with the Government of British Columbia to negotiate their Land Use Plans and the new protected areas. Nature United is also working with them to explore new avenues for sustainable economic development and economic diversification in concert with their Land Use Visions, for example through ecotourism and carbon finance that could lead to sequestering as much as 2.5 million tonnes of CO2. The project is expected to create new local jobs and contribute to mitigating the impacts of climate change.

Nature United is a Canadian conservation organization whose vision is for a sustainable Canada where nature is the foundation of human well-being, prosperity and opportunity for future generations. This project builds on successes in the Great Bear Rainforest, where our global affiliate was invited by local partners to join an effort that ultimately protected 19 million acres and established the $120 million Coast Funds, which fosters sustainable economic growth and First Nation leadership. These funds have since leveraged an additional $300 million and helped create more than 900 jobs in First Nations’ communities.

Nature United was founded as an Canadian charity in 2014, building on decades of conservation in Canada. Headquartered in Toronto, the organization has field staff located across the country. Nature United supports Indigenous leadership, sustainable economic development, and science and large-scale conservation, primarily in the Great Bear Rainforest, Clayoquot Sound, the Northwest Territories, and northern Manitoba.

We are the Canadian affiliate of The Nature Conservancy (nature.org), the world’s largest conservation organization, with more than 3,600 staff worldwide, 400 scientists and 1 million supporters. TNC tackles leading conservation threats at the greatest scale to help people and nature thrive, and is working to make a lasting difference around the world in 72 countries.