The beautiful black bear calls Vancouver Island's last intact old-growth rainforest its home. © Andrew Wright
British Columbia’s magnificent Clayoquot Sound is one of the most famous forests in the world. Encompassing 265,000 hectares of breathtaking old-growth rainforest, and home to 45 known endangered, threatened and vulnerable animal species, Clayoquot Sound is an ecological treasure of global significance. Its mountains, valleys and islands are home to three of the broader region’s Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations and represent Vancouver Island’s largest intact ancient rainforest. With 75 per cent of Vancouver Island’s old-growth forests already logged, much of the remaining forests are fragmented and small, making Clayoquot Sound’s large intact landscape immensely important to protect. In 2000, Clayoquot Sound became British Columbia’s first UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve.
One of Canada’s largest acts of civil disobedience
In the early 1990s, Greenpeace joined fellow environmental groups, the region’s First Nations and members of the public to protect the rainforest from industrial logging. After grassroots protests, which included one of the largest acts of civil disobedience in Canadian history, and pressure from the global markets, ‘peace in the woods’ was restored with a 1999 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between environmental groups, First Nations, and Iisaak Forest Resources Ltd – a wholly-owned First Nations logging company.
Iisaak, originally in a joint venture with the existing logging operator MacMillan Bloedel (which was subsequently bought by Weyerhaeuser Company), took over most of the forest tenures in the region and has been the primary operator for over a decade.
While the MOU and recommendations from a government-appointed science panel to reform logging practices in the region did lead to increased conservation, there still remains large unprotected valleys of old-growth forest in Clayoquot Sound. With little progress since and not enough of the intact rainforests protected, Clayoquot remains susceptible to industrial logging today. The original agreements did not produce enough social and economic benefits for the region’s First Nations and so the pressure to log to improve their communities’ well-being remains.
Solutions in the making
Fortunately, there are solutions. Greenpeace and its allies remain committed to working with the First Nations of the region to develop long-term strategies such as those arising out of the globally celebrated Great Bear Rainforest Agreements. We are confident that Vancouver Island's last intact old-growth rainforest will receive the protection it needs while ensuring First Nations’ aspirations for the health and well-being of their communities in Clayoquot Sound are met.
How Greenpeace protects Clayoquot Sound
- Engaging in solutions-based discussions: Greenpeace and other environmental organizations are in discussions with the region’s First Nations and other parties to develop a long-term conservation solution that will allow new forms of ecologically oriented economies to take root.
- Supporting communities: We continue to work with First Nations and non-First Nations communities to ensure their economic aspirations are met.
- Advocating for wildlife and ecosystems: A long-term solution for the conservation of the intact old-growth forests of Clayoquot Sound means wildlife and ecosystems will enjoy greater protection and resilience to the challenges of climate change.