Natural Resources Canada awarded the Nuu-chah-nulth Central Region Management Board and Ecotrust Canada $1.5-million in funding to launch the Clayoquot Forest Communities Program (CFCP) as part of a national strategy to help forest-dependent communities meet the challenges of economic transition.
The communities included under the program are the First Nations of Ahousaht, Hesquiaht, Toquaht, Yuutu?it?aht and Tla-o-qui-aht, and the municipal Districts of Ucluelet and Tofino. As Clayoquot Sound is part of the Alberni–Clayoquot Regional District, the program may extend to other First Nations and coastal communities on the West Coast as well.
The CFCP came into play at a time when local communities were working hard to recover from the collapse of the fisheries and forestry industries in the 1990s. With unemployment figures as high as 70 percent in some of the region’s more remote communities, and after recognizing the dangers of reviving an economy to be reliant solely on tourism, the region continues to look at the forest economy with an interest in diversifying economic activity and becoming a model to inspire others facing similar issues.
“Clayoquot Sound is a rich area in terms of its culture, biodiversity, natural resources and workforce,” says Daniel Arbour, Program Manager, Ecotrust Canada. “Our challenge is to work together as communities to build a more diversified and resilient local economy.”
The vision for the CFCP was to build a conservation economy based on the principle of Hishuk ish’ tsawalk, a Nuu-chah-nulth phrase meaning “everything is one and interconnected.” By attracting and engaging other programs and sources of funding, the Clayoquot Forest Communities will support the development of a dynamic and creative economy for this UNESCO Biosphere Reserve region that honours the intent of its designation and proves that people and the environment can both co-exist and thrive. The partners intend to leverage this new funding to attract many partners to the table and build a model of the conservation economy.
Towards these ends, the CFCP has five major themes:
- Effective and efficient program management: create a project management framework that is recognized and respected for its ability to deliver on commitments in a timely and cost-effective manner.
- Demographic change in the forest-based community economy: bring what has historically been a contentious and divided constituency into the program with a set of common objectives and priority outcomes. This includes making special efforts to increase the participation of the region’s First Nations, women, youth and elders.
- Diversification of the local economy: select and fund projects that lead ultimately to economic diversification with a particular focus on bringing new business opportunities to remote communities and encouraging innovation and investment.
- Strong regional institutions and collaborative partnerships: operate the program as a partnership from the very beginning by engaging stakeholder groups from a wide spectrum of sectors and interests in the design and delivery of projects.
- Innovative ecosystem-based management approach: promote integrated planning, results monitoring, innovation and models of best practice as core aspects of the program.
Over the last five years that the CFCP has been running, Ecotrust Canada and our partners have undertaken numerous activities and piloted many projects to achieve the goals set forth by the program. Major activities and projects engaged in during this time include, but are not limited to:
- With our “Qwii-qwiq-sap: Standing Tree to Standing Home” (Value-Added Housing) project we have created a model of community investment that aims at maximizing local skills, local labour, local materials and cultural identity. The aim is to marry the need for affordable housing and economic development to build a resilient region. This resulted in the building of the first ‘Green and Culturally Appropriate Home’ by a member of the Nuu-chah-nulth Nation, as part of the Green and Culturally Appropriate Building Design project.
- The Clayoquot Sound Scientific Panel symposium: Ecotrust Canada organized and facilitated this this keystone event, with 120 participants gathering to reflect on the last 15 years of resource management in Clayoquot Sound and help inform the future. The event was a timely opportunity to learn about the first 15 years of ecosystem management implementation in Clayoquot Sound, and a chance for Clayoquot to learn from newer forms of ecosystem based management in other areas of the Province and around the world.
- 2011 saw the start of a pilot project on Forest Traceability (ThisForest) that worked across the International Model Forest, Canada, B.C. Community Forests and Clayoquot Sound.
- With the program now in its final year, our focus is expanding as we look at creating the Vancouver Island Model Forest, using the lessons learned and our valuable experiences in Clayoquot Sound, to continue working further afield to build resilient communities by taking an ecosystem-based management approach to resource use.