Ahousaht, whose main village of 800 residents is located on a remote island in Clayoquot Sound, made national news in March 2009 because of a severe mould problem in local homes that had become hazardous. This First Nation is beset by poor socio-economic conditions, including a stagnant economy, chronic unemployment, dilapidated housing, and inadequate infrastructure. The headlines about mouldy homes were a low point for Ahousaht, but also the driving force for the community to pull together to overcome their many challenges.
In May 2008, representatives from all five Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations, Ecotrust Canada, and two local forestry companies held a visioning retreat for Clayoquot forest activities with the objective of utilizing local timber harvesting permits to help meet the needs of individual communities. The proposed vision, a “Circle of Wealth”, links timber harvesting, value added production, housing, and community development.
After the retreat, leaders declared, “The vision for our forestry industry is for us to maximize the benefits from every tree, including high value cultural items and uses. We will harvest and utilize the forests in ways that are defined by our communities to maintain a sustainable old growth profile for future generations.”
In response to the housing crisis, Ahousaht has new building plans, including 150 homes, two eight-unit condos, a school, a visitor centre, and a cultural centre longhouse. The community would benefit financially and socially from this project, using local wood and a local construction crew. This would increase the economic gain of the project, while helping to mitigate the environmental impact by reducing transportation and ensuring the sustainability of the wood.