Clayoquot Sound is a stunning mosaic of emerald valleys, clustered islands, and ancient trees along British Columbia’s southern coast—Vancouver's largest intact old-growth forest. For the past 10 years, Nature United has worked in partnership with the Hesquiaht, Ahousaht, and Tla-o-qui-aht Nations in developing and advancing land use and care visions that reflect their cultural, economic and environmental priorities.
These visions will ensure economic opportunities and protect natural resources like trees, fish, and clean water. We’re also working with the First Nations to establish a stewardship endowment that will fund First Nations-led management of natural resources for generations to come.
A Step Forward
In September 2020, the Government of BC announced a two year deferral of old-growth harvesting in Clayoquot Sound, marking an important milestone in implementing these land use and care visions.
The First Nations and the Province will work together to create permanent protected areas, negotiate community forest tenures, and establish a co-management arrangement. The deferral gives more time for the Nations to implement their visions and seize new opportunities for economic development.
This announcement and commitments by BC to uphold the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and work with First Nations on an old-growth management strategy is a major step forward.
Listening to Communities
"The Tla-o-qui-aht Land Vision articulated in our language explores our identity and ongoing relationship with our home,” says Gisele Martin, the land-vision coordinator for the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation, who is practicing a language threatened by colonialism.
With support from Nature United, coordinators like Gisele are working with their communities to articulate new visions for the lands and waters within their traditional territory.
Over generations, Tla-o-qui-aht have worked to express their relationship, rights and responsibilities—and now their Land Vision—to the rest of the world. That includes identifying areas that should continue to be protected alongside areas where development, tourism and other activities have had impact.
The neighbouring Ahousaht First Nation completed a similar process in 2017. Next steps include working with the Government of British Columbia to explore and implement the Nations' visions and identify opportunities to build a sustainable and diverse economy.
Supporting a Sustainable Economy
Nature United has worked in Clayoquot Sound since 2012, helping to safeguard some of the planet’s largest stores of forest carbon. Our approach is to blend economy, nature, and local stewardship—ensuring the communities who know the land best are in a position to care for it for generations to come.
Together, we completed an economic analysis of current conditions and future opportunities that could align with new land-use changes. Through the Nations’ land visions, carbon finance could lead to sequestering as much as 2.5 million tonnes of CO2. Projects like this create new local jobs and maximize the role of Clayoquot Sound’s old-growth forests in mitigating climate change.
Hope for the Future
The land use and care plans being developed and implemented by the Hesquiaht, Ahousaht, and Tla-o-qui-aht communities will support local, sustainably economic development—like eco-tourism and sustainable forestry—meeting the needs of the community who frequently name jobs and accessibility as key concerns for the future.
"The goal," Gisele says, "is to phase out use-centric colonial mismanagement and to amplify, promote and practice cultural lifeways, the land care practices of our culture, and to continue protecting the life-giving forests and diverse gardens of Tla-o-qui-aht."