Clayoquot Sound – traditional territory of the Nuu Chah Nulth first nations – is world-renowned for its intact valleys of ancient rainforest, home to monumental cedars, wild salmon, wolves, bears, and whales.
It is also the site of many firsts in Canadian history,from the first-ever ancient forest blockade on Meares Island in the ‘80s to the mass protests of Clayoquot Summer 1993, which was the largest act of peaceful civil disobedience in Canadian history.
Now, Clayoquot Sound is at a turning point.
In 1993 we knew that healthy forests were key to creating healthy rivers, which provide habitat for salmon. We now understand that the returning salmon spawners provide the missing nitrogen that nourishes the forests. This is what the Nuu Chah Nulth have been saying all along: ‘hishuk ish tsawalk – everything is one.’
The BC government sparked the mass protests of 1993 when it announced that two-thirds of Clayoquot Sound would be set aside for logging. Nearly a thousand people were arrested that summer. Since then, despite much window-dressing, there has been no additional protection for these globally rare forests. The rate of cut is increasing alarmingly – it hasn’t been this high since 1995! Barges of raw logs heading out to sea are again a common sight. Iisaak Forest Resources is poised to begin building logging roads on Flores Island, which would be akin to logging Meares Island.
Nowadays it’s not just about the logging: Clayoquot has one of the densest concentrations of salmon feedlots on the BC coast, with 16 active sites. Mainstream Canada, a Norwegian- owned company, is currently applying for a new tenure at Plover Point under the new federal regulations. They want to site their new feedlot along the shores of Meares Island Tribal Park.
On top of all this, Catface Mountain is being considered for an openpit copper mine by Imperial Metals. If you’ve been to Tofino on a sunny day, you’re familiar with Catface Mountain – it’s just 10 kilometres north of town, and is one of three major mountains that dominate the view not only from Tofino, but from anywhere along the outer coast. Imperial is also considering re-opening the Fandora gold mine near Tofino. These mining activities would damage the landscape and put at risk the very salmon that feed the ancient forests!
The First Nations of Clayoquot Sound – the Hesquiaht, Ahousaht, and Tla-o-qui-aht people – are eager to regain control of their own affairs. The problem is they’ve been painted into an economic corner by our governments’ policies. This makes it hard for leaders to say “no” when companies come around offering millions of dollars in exchange for access to resources. These companies offer shortterm economic benefits that are desperately needed, but they come with long-term social and environmental impacts.
It’s time for a paradigm shift in the way humans relate to Nature. We don’t need to sustain development; we need to develop a sustainable culture that allows healthy ecosystems to flourish alongside human communities with high levels of well-being.
Friends of Clayoquot Sound, as part of the Clayoquot Sound Conservation Alliance, is involved in negotiations with local first nations to protect additional forests and secure funding to kickstart a conservation economy. This is not the time for Clayoquot Sound to become part of BC’s mining boom, nor is it the time to expand salmon feedlots that threaten wild salmon.
Clayoquot Sound is sacred ground in more ways than one. Conservation history has been made here – twice. Conditions are ripening and we are poised to make history again. We invite you to join us in defense of all that is Wild, Sacred, and Good in both the natural and human worlds— which as the saying goes, are One.
Dan Lewis is Executive Director of the Friends of Clayoquot Sound in Tofino. His email is dan (at) focs.ca. Check out www.focs.ca for more info.