A Letter from our Executive Director on Canopy and the Clayoquot Sound
There is a place on the edge of the world – well, of the North American continent anyway – that inspired a generation of forest activists. It is Clayoquot Sound on the wild west coast of Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. Its temperate rainforest valleys and mountains hold cedars over a 1000 years old and giant Sitka spruce. Bald eagles and black bears fish for salmon in its rivers. Grey whales, Orcas and sea otters swim its inlets and feed in the depths and shallows between its forested islands. In 1993, the 260,000-hectare region became the focus of the largest civil disobedience in Canadian history. News of huge logging blockades catapulted the region onto the international stage, and the marketplace that was buying its pulp and timber became the site of campaigns for both its forests and First Nations’ land rights.
Canopy was born at my kitchen table, in Clayoquot Sound, 20 years ago. My aim was to find a way for the marketplace to be a real part of forest conservation efforts, not an impediment. I convinced a handful of environmental organizations to each throw in $200, and voila I went from a volunteer with a belief that we could be doing things in a smarter way, to a barely paid environmentalist on a project that has now evolved into the force that Canopy has become for forests around the world.
Fast forward 20 years to Sept 11, 2020. On that day, the government of British Columbia announced a two-year deferral of industrial logging of old growth forests in Clayoquot Sound while they work with local First Nations to formalize a solution that prioritizes conservation and sustainable economic development. It is such an encouraging moment for Clayoquot Sound, one of Canopy’s Landscapes of Hope. We are so grateful to the First Nations of the region who have consistently put forward their vision for protection of their lands and the future of their peoples within it.
Many of Canopy’s senior campaigners have poured years of their lives into protecting its forests. In celebration of this momentous step forward, we’re looking back at twenty years of Canopy in one of the places closest to our hearts. From bulldozers to bad haircuts, these snapshots give some flavour to the decades of hard work, grit, fun, and love that have contributed to this moment.
The wonderful news of Clayoquot Sound was part of a broader government announcement about the province’s approach to its rapidly disappearing and threatened old growth forests. The BC Old Growth Strategy that was unveiled for the remainder of the province was unfortunately very disappointing – and as we know the trajectory of global forest health is of serious concern.
Combatting that global trend is the dedicated focus of our work but today, I and everyone at Canopy are taking a few moments to celebrate the fruits of tenacious determination that this announcement represents – a major step towards permanent protection of one of the world’s key remaining ancient forests.
Clayoquot Sound is not only important as a forest but as an icon for the power of passionate, creative persistence to overcome entrenched, powerful economic and political interests. It ain’t over just yet, but the path for Clayoquot Sound just opened up. We’ll be dedicated to seeing it across the line, along with many other key landscapes around the world.