“Clayoquot Sound is a place of wonder, one whose beauty takes the breath away. It fills you with a sense of our sacred responsibility as stewards of this very special place.”
—Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, May 5, 2000, on the designation of Clayoquot Sound as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
About Clayoquot Sound
Clayoquot Sound is the Last Great Rainforest on Vancouver Island, located in British Columbia on the west coast.
The region is unceded traditional territory and home of three Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations: the Hesquiaht, Ahousaht, and Tla-o-qui-aht. Clayoquot Sound is world-renowned for its ancient rainforests, monumental cedars, wild salmon, timber wolves, black bears, and whales.
Many valleys in Clayoqout Sound remain unlogged only because of committed activism. During the 1980s a blockade kept the loggers off Meares Island until First Nations obtained a court injunction and declared the island a Tribal Park. Then, in 1993, the largest act of peaceful civil disobedience in Canadian history thwarted plans by the BC government to log two-thirds of Clayoquot Sound.
In 1993 it was understood that healthy forests were key to healthy rivers, which in turn provide habitat for salmon. Newer research has shown that the returning salmon provide missing nitrogen that fertilizes the forest. This is what the Nuu-chah-nulth have been saying all along: ‘hishuk ish tsawalk – everything is one.’
But these days it’s not just about the logging: Clayoquot has one of the densest concentrations of salmon feedlots on the BC coast, with 20 sites. Cermaq Canada, a Norwegian-owned corporation, owns 15 of these tenures. They installed a new feedlot at Plover Point in 2013, along the shore of Meares Island Tribal Park.
Imperial Metals of Vancouver (notorious for their 2014 Mount Polley Mine disaster near Likely, BC) is considering two mines in the region. These mines would damage the landscape and present a toxic risk to the salmon that feed the ancient forests—a toxic legacy that would endure for centuries.
On top of all this, there is the uber-risk of proposed pipelines with the associated increase in oil tanker traffic. Tankers full of diluted bitumen from Alberta’s tar sands would travel just offshore of Clayoquot Sound. A major oil spill on Long Beach is an unacceptable risk.
The First Nations of Clayoquot Sound are eager to regain control of their own affairs. The problem is that government policies have painted them into an economic corner, which makes it hard for Native leaders to say “no” when corporations offer millions of dollars for access to resources. These corporations offer short-term economic benefits that are desperately needed, but with the price of long-term social and environmental impacts.
Mining proposals, salmon farms, and oil tankers threaten Clayoquot Sound. Instead of industrial development, it’s time to develop a sustainable culture that allows ecosystems to flourish alongside healthy human communities.