Aerial view of Clayoquot Sound surrounded by forest.
Clayoquot Sound on the west coast of Vancouver Island in the Canadian province of British Columbia © Bryan Evans / The Nature Conservancy

British Columbia

New Opportunities in Clayoquot Sound

At a pivotal moment for this old-growth forest, we are working with communities to implement Indigenous-led conservation strategies.

Clayoquot Sound is a stunning mosaic of emerald valleys, clustered islands and thousand-year-old trees. It is home to three First Nations: the Ahousaht, Tla-o-qui-aht and Hesquiaht, who have stewarded these lands and waters since time immemorial. In 2000, the area became British Columbia’s (BC) first UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. 

Despite its significance, Clayoquot Sound is vulnerable to unsustainable logging, mining and other development.

Right now, we have a crucial window of opportunity to protect this global treasure and shape a new future for people and nature. We are partnering with local First Nations to create new protected areas across nearly 250,000 acres of old-growth forest. In a key step forward, the government of BC announced a two year deferral of old-growth harvesting in Clayoquot Sound. Now all three levels of government—provincial, federal and Indigenous—are aligned toward a solution. 

By the Numbers

  • 3

    Indigenous communities: The Ahousaht, Hesquiaht and Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations.

  • 297

    species of flora and fauna thrive in Clayoquot Sound, including black bears, whales, and bald eagles.

  • 250,000

    acres, making this one of the world’s last great tracts of ancient temperate rainforest.

  • 100M

    tonnes of carbon are stored in the old-growth forests here, making it one of the largest carbon stores on the planet.

A Legacy of Conservation

More than 25 years ago, Clayoquot Sound was the site of the War in the Woods—the largest act of civil disobedience in Canadian history. First Nations protested and grandmothers chained themselves to some of the last remaining old-growth trees on the island to protect their children’s heritage. 

Today, we are embarking on a new era of Indigenous-led protection and stewardship, working alongside the sons and daughters of the people who attended the first protests to complete this historic journey.

In 2008, our global affiliate was invited by local First Nations to support their efforts to advance land-use visions for Clayoquot Sound. In the years since, we've worked with the Nations to complete drafts of their visions, engage Provincial government in the process, and implement an Economic Development Action Plan protocol with the BC Government. 

Our Strategy in Clayoquot Sound

We are working to protect one of the world’s last intact coastal temperate rainforest for the next generation while addressing climate and social justice issues that have eroded old-growth forests, wild salmon runs, and the economic well-being of communities.

Protecting Old-Growth Forests

The most immediate need is to protect up to 250,000 acres of intact, coastal temperate rainforest in Clayoquot Sound. To achieve this goal, we support First Nations in implementing their Land Use Visions.

Indigenous land is home to more species around the world than anywhere else, protecting 80% of global biodiversity. 

We support sustainable economies by helping local partners create a more sustainable forestry model that benefits local communities, and also by working to diversify local revenue streams.

Black Bear
Vital Eco-System Protecting old-growth forests is essential for preserving BC’s rich biodiversity; safe-guarding clean air and water; and taking steps toward climate action. © Alana Ferraro/TNC
Tla-o-qui-aht Vision Map
Indigenous-Led Visions 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 visions. © Nature United

Quote: Joe Martin

“It gives me hope that partners like TNC want to work with us to preserve traditions and values which support people and nature."


Supporting Resilient Communities

When Indigenous communities have the capacity and resources they need to manage the lands and waters in their territories, conservation results are effective, long-lasting, and supportive of social and economic well-being.

Our shared vision is a sustainable region that is managed for and by its people. We are identifying models that increase Indigenous authority in decision-making, stewardship and economic diversification. 

Following the lead of local partners, we are advancing Indigenous rights and authority through the design and financing of land protection that will secure a world-class, Indigenous-led conservation area.

Old-growth Forest
Old-growth Forest Old-growth forest at Clayoquot Sound © Bryan Evans

Natural Climate Solutions

Natural Climate Solutions are actions to protect, manage, and restore forests, grasslands, agricultural lands, and wetlands that result in avoided and captured greenhouse gas emissions. Learn More

Leading Climate Action

As the Earth’s largest above-ground "pool" of carbon, forests play a critical role in regulating greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. How humans use forests impacts whether forests are sources (releasing carbon into the atmosphere) or sinks (absorbing carbon from the atmosphere). Because of this, forests can be a natural ally against rising emissions and slowing climate change.

In Clayoquot Sound, where an eco-system of old-growth forests contain what scientists consider "irreplaceable carbon," we have a critical opportunity to harness the power of nature and fight climate change.

To fully demonstrate the benefit of nature-based solutions in tackling climate change, we are advancing a carbon-offset pilot in Clayoquot Sound. 

By testing these concepts, we aim to create enduring funding solutions, such as carbon offsets and ecotourism models that support Indigenous partners in ensuring durable finance solutions for managing newly protected areas.