» Skills » Planning Planning | Ecotrust Canada

This guide provides supportive materials to on-reserve Indigenous communities seeking to transform their housing systems to maximize local benefits and minimize economic, social and cultural leakage from their communities.

The standard model of residential construction is failing Indigenous communities on-reserve, leading to the overcrowding of homes, disrepair, health issues and cultural degradation. This situation perpetuates already drastic socio-economic inequity, as the high cost to heat poorly built and maintained homes keeps Indigenous families trapped in a cycle of energy poverty.

New housing projects offer incredible potential to achieve sustainable and equitable economic development, create meaningful livelihoods, and enhance cultural resilience on-reserve. Innovation is required to ensure that Indigenous communities are able to fulfil their development visions, while building dignified, culturally inspired and sustainable housing.

The information contained in this guide details an approach to developing a comprehensive baseline assessment that communities can use to assess their own readiness for transforming their housing systems into value-added, community development opportunities.

Additionally, a basic decision-making framework for self-determined housing is provided, as well as a financial resources guide along with other practical and useful information to assist Indigenous communities in thinking about how to transform their housing systems.

This Improved Forest Management project is situated on a 33,018 hectare crown forest tenure around Whistler, on the traditional territories of the Squamish Nation and Lil’wat Nation, a landscape enjoyed by millions of locals, British Columbians, and international visitors each year.

Offsets On Offer /

The Project has approximately 12,500 carbon offsets available for purchase through Brinkman Climate at $25 tonne until May 31st, 2015. These offsets are from the project’s first verification period (2009-2013), issued in Spring 2015. They are verified to the BC Emission Offsets Regulation using the BC Forest Carbon Offset Protocol, and are certified for use under the BC Government’s Carbon Neutral Public Service regulation.

Improved Forest Management Carbon Offsets

All major carbon standards around the world include tools for creating forest carbon offsets. British Columbia’s Emission Offsets Regulation creates a particularly effective pathway for generating offsets through Improved Forest Management (IFM). By improving harvests and resource management, we can keep more carbon sequestered over a longer-term.
Recognizing the desire to manage forests better than “business as usual,” the Cheakamus Community Forest (CCF) partnered with Brinkman Group and Ecotrust Canada to design an offset project in order to fund the implementation of an Ecosystem-Based Management (EBM) plan – critical to allowing EBM activities to take place.

Old Growth, Small Blocks, Buffers, and Habitat

The Project uses the following four IFM approaches through its EBM plan:

  • Increased representation of old and mature forests in specific ecosystems within the tenure area over time, maintenance of a full range of stand structures, ages, species, and ecosystems
  • Enhanced logging prescriptions which protect scenic vistas in the magnificent forests around Whistler with smaller cut blocks (1-5 hectares in size) and preserving older structural components of the ecosystem within harvested areas
  • Increased buffers within specified high ecological value areas, such as cultural and riparian areas
  • Protection of important wildlife habitat

All of this with the goal of achieving an appropriate balance between timber harvesting, tourism, cultural values, recreation, wildlife, and biodiversity.

Validation and Verification

The project has been registered under the British Columbia Forest Carbon Offset Protocol (FCOP). The forest carbon emission reductions were achieved by reducing baseline harvest by 50% while remaining a source of sustainable livelihoods in the region. Without the successful sale of offsets, the CCF would not be able to afford the halving of revenue and more expensive EBM logging practices – leading to the forest tenure reverting back to the Province or going back to business as usual practices.


The Cheakamus Community Forest Society is a forest tenure partnership between the Resort Municipality of Whistler, Squamish Nation, and Lil’wat Nation.

Community Forest Agreements are long-term area-based tenures designed to encourage community involvement in the management of local forests for the benefit of the community. More and more communities are considering alternative ways to manage their adjacent forest resources to maximize economic, social, and environmental benefits to their region. The CCF is both the first carbon offset project completed on a British Columbia Forest tenure and a Community Forest tenure in Canada.

How it Works

The Project reduces GHG emissions by approximately 10,000 tonnes CO2e/year through avoided and modified forestry practices laid out under the CCF Ecosystem-Based Management Plan. Actions go beyond regulatory requirements and adjacent land management practices, and could not be sustained without offset revenue. The additional funding pays for improved forest monitoring, conserving areas, smaller cut blocks, improved recreational opportunities, and implementing fire and climate mitigation strategies. Project design is further guided by the principles of Forest Stewardship Council (FSC®), an independent, not for profit organization established to promote the responsible management of the world’s forests.

“The carbon project plays an important role in maintaining and enhancing the recreation and tourism values in the area.”

Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden of Whistler

“This work supports the vision of the Squamish Nation to continue to maintain our resources and cultural practices for our little ones’ future little ones.”

Chief Ian Campbell, Squamish Nation

“This additional tool allows the Lil’wat Nation a way to balance protecting culturally important areas and serves our people today and for future generations.”

Chief Dean Nelson, Lil’wat Nation

Whistler Going Carbon Neutral

The Resort Municipality of Whistler is offsetting its annual carbon footprint by purchasing offsets from the Cheakamus Community Forest project. The Brinkman Group and Ecotrust Canada are also buying voluntary offsets from the project. The companies’ carbon footprints have been measured through Climate Smart, a social enterprise which helps businesses measure and reduce their environmental impacts while cutting costs.

“A lot of work has gone into this initiative. The sale of carbon offsets is a creative way for our community forest to generate income and place a value on our sustainable forestry practices, which have resulted in a reduced harvest level with considerably more emphasis on tourism, cultural values, recreational interests, wildlife, and biodiversity.”

Jeff Fisher, Chair, Cheakamus Community Forest Society

“The CCF core climate action idea is ‘Improved Forest Management.’ Carbon credits inject new funds and enable more sustainable forest management.”

Dirk Brinkman, CEO, Brinkman Group

PICFI, AFS, the open market – there are a lot of options available to First Nations looking to invest in commercial fisheries. Yet few resources exist to guide communities in differentiating these opportunities and building a path toward robust sources of local income and employment. Seeking to address this gap, Ecotrust Canada has created a comprehensive fisheries planning program for BC’s coastal communities.

The program is anchored in community engagement. Communities invite us to facilitate town hall meetings between all local stakeholders. Fisheries managers and fishermen alike tell us what they want for the future of their fishery. What sort of industry do they envision? What licences should the Community Fisheries Enterprise pursue? How can the community best support its fishermen?

We then turn to our Fisheries Diversification Model. In the spirit of information democracy, the model makes commercial fisheries data – normally hard to find – accessible to the people who need it most. We have collected more than 100,000 data points on BC’s current and historical commercial fisheries from DFO, industry and academic publications, and interviews with fishermen. The model draws from this database to give communities an accurate, in-depth look at the economics of BC’s small-boat fleet.

Equipped with community insight, stakeholder direction, and cold hard data, we assess the community’s specific needs to determine the best course of action, keeping in mind:

  • Local needs and resources
  • Cultural appropriateness
  • Environmental sustainability
  • Economic sustainability

Our final product intertwines cultural knowledge and industry statistics to present a vision of a robust community fishing fleet – and a realistic path toward that goal.

With the Model Forest concept, Ecotrust Canada sees an approach that combines the social, cultural and economic needs of local communities with the long-term sustainability of large landscapes in which forests are an important feature. By design, Model Forests are voluntary, broad-based initiatives linking forestry, research, agriculture, mining, recreation, and other interests on a given landscape. As they take root, Model Forests develop governance and initiatives that align across multiple scales – from the local level through to international forest and social objectives.

Started by the Government of Canada at Rio in 1992, the International Model Forest Network has grown to over 60 sites in 23 countries. Everywhere they exist, Model Forests provide an umbrella vehicle for organizations and individuals to build social consensus around forest use, and establish a common program of activities to grow economic vitality based on a strong ecological foundation.

On Vancouver Island, the initiative invites organizations and businesses who want sustainable forests and sustainable communities for the long-term. As such, we are attracting stakeholders who want to collaborate on initiatives that will benefit the forest and people of Vancouver Island as a whole.


  • Completing a stakeholder survey identifying core issues on Vancouver Island.
  • Investigating the best ways to grow the value-add sector on Vancouver Island.
  • Analyzing the impact of regional decisions on forest and community economies, starting with lessons learned from Clayoquot Sound.
  • Assessing forest-related investment trends and opportunities on Vancouver Island.


  • Vancouver Island Economic Alliance
  • UBC Forestry
  • Iisaak Forest Resources
  • Tofino District
  • Tofino Chamber of Commerce
  • Private Forest Landowners Association
  • Canadian and International Model Forest Network


At its core, the Fisheries Diversification Model is a decision-support tool for planning resilient fisheries. It allows users to explore historical fisheries data and current costs of business with an eye to the future. First Nations fishing communities in British Columbia are suffering and at risk of dying out due to a tangled net of interconnected challenges. Recognizing this, Ecotrust Canada has designed a new tool to help fishing communities figure out how to be more resilient. The model helps a community define and prioritize its objectives in pursuing fishery investments.

Are they trying to maintain cultural ties to traditional livelihoods? Do they want to increase employment within the community? Are they trying to build a more sustainable source of income? Or, with more established fisheries, do they simply want to evaluate their current risk exposure to overfishing and climate change and adapt accordingly? Using the Fisheries Diversification Model, a community can create a series of fishery scenarios and receive feedback on each scenario’s economic, social, and environmental performance. The tool can highlight which fishery combinations may result in higher profits and  employment with less vulnerability to environmental conditions. Through these scenarios, communities can better evaluate how well their decisions meet their short and long term objectives.

How it works

We introduce the Fisheries Diversification Model to communities that have recognized an opportunity for change and wish to design an individualized vision of a fishery suitable to their needs. Our tool incorporates a community’s own fisheries information with typically hard-to-find federal data and offers support in building on that vision.

Reflecting on the past

The tool is built on a solid foundation of fisheries data – possibly the most comprehensive Canadian fisheries database in the world. Ecotrust Canada undertook a monumental data gathering project, assembling more than 15 years of DFO catch records across all west coast fisheries. This database is accessed throughout the model and users can explore the changes in harvested weights and earnings in each fishery over time, using these historical trends to inform their understanding of current fisheries.

Understanding the present

Fishing is an expensive business. But which fisheries incur which costs? To find out, we held a series of interviews with commercial fishermen across the industry, learned about the specific costs of participating in each fishery, and verified the numbers against published reports. These operational costs are woven into the model and further inform users’ understandings of each fishery.

Looking to the future

The central purpose of the Fisheries Diversification Model is to guide and enrich important community discussions and decision making. It provides a unique opportunity for communities to interact with fisheries data in real time, allowing them to explore scenarios in detail and truly test their assumptions about what makes a successful fishery. To that end, the model features a number of tools to aid users in creating a list of objectives and evaluating proposed scenarios based on those objectives.

In crafting each scenario, the user can create a series of diversified fishery combinations which include various species, gear types, and geographic areas, and take into account things like seasonal timing, required equipment, and start-up costs.

Drawing on current financial data, the economic reports outline the costs and revenues associated with each scenario on both a boat-by-boat and fleet-wide basis. Users can examine the profitability of their chosen scenarios, distribution of wealth across the fleet, and judge the financial sustainability of their proposed fisheries. By merging financial data from the present with harvest data from the past, the Fisheries Diversification Model offers users a  methodical approach for anticipating future fishery trends. The future indicators report outlines the potential vulnerabilities and opportunities of each fishery on nine different criteria, from environmental risk to economic competition. Although they can’t really tell the future, the final indicator scores do give users a sense of each scenario’s potential sustainability over the long term and the potential risk associated with their proposed investments.

Many fish, many baskets

The model’s focus on diversification helps communities recognize any potential threats and reduce their exposure to risk. If a community is dependent on a single species, for example, that community’s fortunes rise and fall with that species. However, a community fishing a more diverse basket of fisheries is more resilient and better able to adapt in shifting environmental and regulatory conditions.

Past projects

We believe the Fisheries Diversification Model empowers communities to more effectively participate in the stewardship and governance of fishery resources and make informed decisions about their own futures. In that regard, Ecotrust Canada has begun a series of consultations with BC coastal communities, including the ‘Namgis and Nisga’a First Nations, providing guidance in the use of the model and informing decisions about fishery investments. So far, the model has supported a number of investment consultations and a treaty process for increased access to diversified fisheries.

Moving forward

The database at the core of this project is itself a powerful resource, one we plan to leverage in this and future projects to deepen our understanding of Canada’s west coast fisheries. We are continuously refining the design and operation of the model, making it more user-friendly and relevant to broader audiences. It is our hope that an eventual public release will enhance public understanding of fisheries science and join communities in important discussions about the future – one that provides meaningful work and good livelihoods, supports vibrant communities and cultures, and conserves and restores the environment.

To achieve, and balance, ecological resilience and ongoing human wellbeing, we must change the way people view their forest lands and take control of forest land management, encouraging the adoption of ecosystem based forestry management (EBM). New tenure models are needed to create innovation in the system, models which ensure that true financial, environmental and social costs are factored into decisions.

With this in mind, our work in the forestry sector aims to:

  • Introduce the concept that forest management must be about more than timber management;
  • Prove that managing for multiple values on a large landscape level is a better business model;
  • Promote Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC) certification and forest of origin traceability;
  • Promote new tenure models.

Enabling ecosystem based management means taking a holistic approach to forestry, through finding viable alternatives and creating streams of revenue from a range of forest resources that collectively make a viable business for the land or tenure holder.

Activities to this end include:

  • Modelling the anticipated business and ecological impact of managing for multiple ecosystem values – carbon, water, recreation, non-timber forest products (NTFP) – on existing tenures, and demonstrating, over time, how it works;
  • Working with forest land holders and managing tenures;
  • Working with First Nation communities to help design a forestry model and tenure that better addresses their interests;
  • Growing our group FSC® certification program for smaller tenure holders and chain of custody businesses;
  • Engaging with and promoting community forest tenures;
  • Creating public awareness and consumer pressure through the Thisforest traceability program;
  • Writing about our ideas, including within policy arenas.

What is EBM, exactly?

To understand our work in EBM, it is first necessary to define what EBM is. Ecosystem Based Management (EBM) is an adaptive management approach to managing human activities that seeks to ensure the coexistence of healthy, fully functioning ecosystems (be they forest, land or water-based) and healthy human communities. The intent is to maintain ecosystems in such a way that indigenous species and ecological processes can be sustained while supporting, even improving, human well-being.

EBM acknowledges the role of humans as an integral part of the ecosystem, and alterations to ecosystems are accepted as necessary to produce the things that people value. Human uses and alterations must, however, be within the limits of what the ecosystem can produce and sustain without loss of diversity or functions. The main concept of EBM is to manage for associated organisms instead of individual species, placing more emphasis on what is left behind before deciding what to remove. To achieve this, EBM uses science-based decision making, traditional and local knowledge, engagement of community members, on-going monitoring, and adaptive planning.

Our work in EBM

Ecotrust Canada has, for a number of years, been working on developing alternative business models for forest lands on both private lands and Crown lands, where multiple revenue streams are investigated as an option to move away from a complete reliance on timber harvesting. To do this, we consider the existing ownership, land base, and forest cover on traditionally managed lands and look at the potential future timber harvest and alternative resource options, with a view to both long and short term needs and potential.

From this assessment, we work to identify potential locations of forest that could be
managed under a multiple resource scenario to build biodiversity and landscape values that will complement a focus on community development. Then, working on a foundation of some agreed upon scenario of timber harvesting, biodiversity protection and alternative resource development, we model forward timber and carbon flows along with other resource values to provide data to base economic assessment upon. Strategies vary depending on the specific land parcels, but revolve around low intensity timber harvesting focused on value creation and ecosystem goods and services, including:

  • forest carbon offsets or bio-fuel supply through wood waste;
  • conservation covenants;
  • non-timber forest products;
  • recreation and education opportunities;
  • low impact, sustainable residential development.

The objective is to build long term sustain-able revenue flows which are less impacted by market fluctuations and more able to take advantage of favourable situations ithout negatively impacting future options. With a team of professional foresters on staff and a wide range of associates and partners available for specific technical help, we are well-equipped to work through any activities needed in turning EBM into the go-to approach to forest management.

Where we work

We engage with people in the places where they live to design and demonstrate new ways of doing business – be it in small scale forestry, the commercial fishery, housing development or land and marine use planning. No two projects look alike, but the formula is always the same: to get optimum value from resource use, to allow communities to participate in decisions, and to increase the social and cultural benefits of economic growth. To achieve this, simultaneously creating systems change, we work from the ground up, and with problem-solving as a primary principle.

More than this, it is the mandate of Ecotrust Canada to focus on projects that are scalable. We focus our attention at the local and regional scale, where individuals, systems and institutions are best positioned to assess what is not currently working, and inform the process of discovering what might. Speaking specifically to our work in ecosystem based forestry management, we believe strongly that a successful working model in Clayoquot for ecosystem services and cultural management will have a wide appeal and application throughout the province. Our work with the Clayoquot Nations on the Qwii-Qwiq-Sap ‘Standing Tree to Standing Home’ project, which aims to maximize the potential of community forests for local use, and develop skills and training for a local workforce, perfectly demonstrates this approach, as well as the integrated nature of an ecosystem based forestry management process.

Another example is our work on Vancouver Island and the lower mainland on a number of properties to investigate forest carbon offset potential. The result of this offers a strong indication that carbon can be an important asset.

Looking forward

In an ongoing collaboration with the Clayoquot First Nations and Iisaak Forest Resources, we are carrying out the next steps in understanding alternative values on the land base of Tree Farm Licence 54 (TFL54). We will collaborate with a timber supply analyst to create a baseline from which we can work to model alternative future management scenarios. This work is ongoing in early 2012.

Progress is also being made in Whistler with the Cheakamus Community Forest (CCF), where we have prepared a feasibility study for a carbon project. We are working on a final confirmation of feasibility – seeking verification that the province will pass carbon offset revenues on to Community Forests – before starting work on the real analysis. The aim is to have carbon credits available to sell to the municipality by mid-2012, allowing the community to meet their carbon neutral obligations under the local government legislation.

On Vancouver Island, we are moving forward in discussions with a number of First Nations who seek to understand values on their traditional territories in regards to treaty settlements and future community development. Our work with these groups aims to help them identify lands within their territory for future negotiations based on a solid understanding of forestry and natural resource values.


BC’s big resource extraction industries need to look for other ways to do business. As a leader in promoting ecosystem-based management on the BC coast, Ecotrust Canada is uniquely positioned to help them find, and embrace, these ways. Based on over 15 years of engagement in forestry, our team of Registered Professional Foresters and technical solutions experts are already working with communities to design new business approaches that help those communities profit sustainably from the wealth of our coastal rainforests. It is our hope that the work we are doing with people in place will serve as a blueprint for communities facing similar issues in the province and beyond.

The land sits on the traditional territories of the Lil’wat and Squamish Nations, as well as the surrounding Host Mountain Resort for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

The communities in the Sea-to-Sky corridor invited Ecotrust Canada to custom-design an ecosystem-based management (EBM) approach for their community forest. The EBM plan maintains or improves ecological integrity over time, is socially responsible, and plans for economically viable forest management. It’s about going from volume-based to value-based forestry.

The Whistler2020 sustainability strategy, the Xay Temixw Land Use Plan (Squamish), the Lil’wat Land Use Plan, and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) principles and criteria all articulate the importance of sound land management to support the long-term economic, social, and ecological viability of the communities. The Cheakamus Community Forest plans to permit timber harvesting without compromising the forest ecosystem, First Nations cultural values, or other forest values that are important for tourism and recreation.

The EBM plan identified strategies for a significant reduction in timber harvest through altered management practices. To replace this source of revenue and continue to fund the plan’s implementation, Ecotrust Canada co-authored a forest carbon offset project with the Brinkman Group.

The EBM plan also provided direction as the Cheakamus Community Forest moved toward its next goal: becoming the first coastal community forest to get FSC certification and have third-party verification of their practices. If successful, this proof-of-concept project will serve as a model for other community forests and Crown forest tenures in BC and Canada to consider alternative forest management that can still support local economies.



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.