Breakthrough for Iconic Old Growth Rainforests

Our team at Canopy is thrilled! This week, the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation, Ahousaht, and the British Columbia government together announced 76,000 hectares (187,000 acres) of Clayoquot Sound’s ancient temperate rainforests will be protected in 10 new conservancies. This nearly doubles the protected ancient rainforest within the iconic Clayoquot Sound region, located on the west coast of Vancouver Island, Canada. 

This is a monumental achievement led by Ahousaht and Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations, and supported by several forest conservation organizations, including Nature United and Canopy. Today’s decision exemplifies how Indigenous leaders, committed citizens, and brands can change the course of history by rejecting business-as-usual practices and supporting Indigenous-led conservation. 

We send our congratulations and our gratitude to the First Nations, and to all who have made this significant conservation milestone possible. Supporting opportunities for the Nations to achieve conservation and community well-being begins with ending the industrial logging of their traditional lands and provision of funds to restore important areas that were previously damaged. This Indigenous-led conservation model serves as inspiration for people and communities around the world.

Large corporate logging companies formerly held tenure rights to log Clayoquot Sound’s temperate rainforest valleys and mountain sides. The region is famous for its thousand-year-old cedars, towering Sitka spruce, and verdant islands. Trees that it takes over 10 people joining hands to encircle are truly awesome. The Meares Island blockade in 1984, led by First Nations was the first salvo that shook the status quo of industrial forestry in Canada. And in the 1990’s Clayoquot Sound was the site of mass protests against forest destruction. These landscapes have inspired a generation of forest activists, several of whom now work at Canopy. 

Clayoquot Sound has a special place in my heart, as it is where I founded Canopy 25 years ago. I had taken part in protests and engaged in efforts to shift government policies. I recognized the need to engage brands that were unwittingly driving logging of ancient forests by buying the paper and textile products made from the wood logged from these — and other — magnificent forests.

Nicole Rycroft, second from left, and fellow protesters in Clayoquot Sound in the 1990’s.

To achieve the levels of forest conservation needed around the world, the marketplace needs to reduce its demands for products made from Ancient and Endangered Forests like paper boxes and man-made cellulosic textiles such as rayon. These shifts in product sourcing and reduction have to be complimented by on-the-ground recognition of Indigenous nations territorial rights. The Clayoquot Sound announcement that expands forest protection and extinguishes the old colonial logging tenures is a prime example of how that recognition can be made real.   

I feel strongly that Indigenous-led conservation is the modern approach to land use and protection of biodiversity-rich areas. The model agreement in Clayoquot Sound is a blueprint that can be similarly adopted across the province of British Columbia and beyond. 

In a world where environmental stories are often tragic or depressing, we can turn on our optimism. There are changes afoot. There are people within Indigenous communities, governments, and the ENGO sectors that can work together, often through difficult negotiations, to come to agreements that serve the planet and its people. Here’s to more of that!