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Clayoqout Sound Controversy

By Edited Oct 17, 2016 0 0

This essay will attempt to evaluate the pros and cons of sustainable development in the forestry industry. The essay will open with a summary of the events and issues surrounding the Clayoquot Sound controversy and the developments or outcomes that resulted from this.

Clayoquot is home to many native species; it is biologically diverse and contains approximately 70% of all the known bird species and 74% of land-dwelling mammal species. Clayoquot SoundBC contains 50% of all the temperate rainforest remaining in North America. It is dominated by a variety of plant species and these include western cedar and the western hemlock tree species (Harding, 1994).

The native and non-native community in Clayoquot relies on tourism and fishing for their livelihoods. Clayoquot Sound is the southern most tract of B.C.s remaing pristine rainforest, where the government allowed timber companies Macmillan Bloedel and Interfor to log three-quarter of the Sound's ancient forests which led to the conflict between the native and non-native people, the government and major corporations. About 73% of Clayoquot sound has already been logged, 90% of which represents clearcutting in BC. To dismantle this rainforest will bring about a dramatic decrease in tourism and fishing and reduce the number of economic options for long term sustainability (Stanbury and Vertinsky, 1997 p.18-24).

From this the BC government established the independent scientific Panel to see about sustainable forest practices in Clayoqout Sound in 1993. The Panel was responsible for the development of the world class forestry standards suitable to the unique ecological conditions and values in the sound - based on traditional aboriginal knowledge of resource management as well as the best scientific knowledge. Overall, the Panel had to look at the best way possible to log Clayoquot sound. In areas that were designated for cutting the Panel limits the area cut in any one watershed to no more than 10-20% in any 10-year period, therefore retaining between 70% of the areas trees depending upon the value of the area. Companies were asked to stop clearcutting in BC's ancient temperate rainforest for wood and fiber products and to cut all business deals with Macmillan Bloedel and Interfor because of their destructive logging practices. They were also encouraged to use only Forest Stewardship Council certified sources from second-growth forests, maximized recycled fiber input and actively seek non-tree sources and to reduce overall wood consumption (The Scientific Panel, 1994).

The decision made by the Scientific Panel upholds a balance between environmental, economic and social values of Clayoquot Sound. Tourism values and the overall esthetic value of the area are also protected. The Panel's decision will not only allow the forest to replenish itself, but it is aimed towards the maintenance of the physical and biological components as well as the biogeochemical processes of the ecosystem. The new practices mean the replacement of conventional clearcutting with what is known as the valuable retention harvesting system, which maintains a variety of sizes and ages of the trees across the forest sites. They will be monitored and evaluated to ensure they accomplish their goal: the long-term health of the forest of Clayoquot Sound (Scientific Panel, 1994).


There has been 260 landslides and soil erosion that took place around the BC region during heavy rainfall. From this number only 13% of the entire landslide was from the unlogged areas. Interfor, one of the logging companies active in the Clayoquot Sound region was fined $10 000 following the incident for inadequate road maintenance. Large-scale clearcuts continue to inflict extensive damage on the delicate rainforest ecosystem, including loss of plants and animal biodiversity, and the destruction of salmon streams. Between 1981 and 1991 the amount of timber cut increased by 5 million cubic meters (fig. 21.4), while greater than 2700 jobs were loss in BC forestry industry mainly due to market changes, and mechanization, overall there are little jobs available per unit wood cut in Canada. Despite the fact that more than half (50%) of the old growth forest is protected, forestry practices are still detrimental to the ecological state of the environment. The rate at which the forest was being removed did and still does not promote sustainable forestry practices, (due in part to the fact that the level of cut was not consistent with the principle of sustained yield (fig 21.1)). (Dearden and Mitchell, 1998, p.496). The rate at which the sound was being logged had tripled over the past 30 years.

In the short-term the protection of the forest comes at significant economic costs. The jobs of an estimated 1000 men and women will be lost including nearly 500 for the residents of the Clayoquot region. Taking away Macmillan Bloedel and other forest company timber rights (and approximately 41% of the area originally logged) means $46 million dollar per year reduction in BC's gross domestic product and an additional $7.6

Million in annual resource and tax revenue lost to the public treasury (Standbury and Vertinsky, 1997). Both companies have lost a lot of clients and it will be costly in the short-term for them to restructure their logging practices especially when clearcutting is driven by a market demand for forest products, (but in the long-run the benefits will out weigh the loss). The U.S. who is the largest consumer of forest products have a strong influence over the fate of BC's forestry, will have to redirect their practice to more ecologically and environmentally sound alternatives which will be detrimental to the bank account of Macmillan Bloedel and Interfor (Scientific Panel, 1994).


The area dedicated to logging has been reduced by approximately 45% which in turn increased the protected area to over 33% (300 000 cubic meters), a sustainable level of 600 000 cubic meters per year (Priest, 1997 p. 27). Harvesting plans will incorporate smaller dispersed cut blocks, moving away from large-scale cuts. A commitment has also been made towards the protection of biodiversity and specific logging standards for sensitive areas including helicopter harvesting to reduce road densities and mid-slope roads (Scientific Panel, 1994).

"Clayoquot is also rich in vertebrate species (table 21.1), with 297 of the 368 species found in the coastal temperate rainforest between coastal Alaska and Oregon recorded in the area. About 62% of the vertebrate species are forest dwellers, "which is ascribed to the old growth component (fig.21.3). Aquatic systems are also rich and varied containing all species of pacific salmon, sea going trout etc. (Dearden and Mitchell, 1998 p.497).

"More people and more demands lead to more conflict, overall resources and make clear the need to adapt a broader range of dispute resolution approaches that embrace a wide clientele."(Dearden and Mitchell, p. 512)

"In efforts to control the escalating conflict, the government announced several new measures, including the agreement with the first nation's peoples. The agreement provided for a $1 million training and employment program for the first nations peoples to work as forestry inspectors and park wardens and for creation of a joint management board to make recommendations to the cabinet regarding the sound." In return, the first nation people would allow Macmillan Bloedel and Interfor to extract timber from Clayoquot (Dearden and Mitchell, p.502).

About 1000 hectares only, to be cut each year; along with the standards and performance-based enforcement, these areas will be reforested on average within three to five years following harvest (Hammond and Bradley, 1996 p.220).

If proper timber management were being practiced in the first place, there would be a balance between availability of jobs and trees in the old growth forest of Clayoquot Sound. But now that there is a demand in the economy and a decrease in the supply it's difficult to find a balance. Now what has and should take priority is the ecological and socio-economic well being of the area. Long-term research and education efforts to increase ecosystem understanding of the area, as suggested by the Scientific Panel, will result in not only economic and community stability in Clayoquot, but a healthy, functioning ecosystem which will in turn provide the key to long term viability.


1. Dearden, P. and B. Mitchell,"Chapter 21, Imperative for Change: Clayoquot Sound, the Challenge, A Canadian Perspective, Pp. 493-514, OxfordUniversity Press, 1998.

2. Priest, A. 1997. Gentle Crusader: Maureen Fraser's Rainforest Battle, Amicus Journal,19(3):27-30.

3. Hammond, H. and T. Bradley 1996. Ecologically Responsible Timber Management in Clayoquot Sound, Journal of Ecoforestry,12(2):220-225.

4. Standbury, W.T., I.B. Vertinsky 1997. Boycotts in Conflicts over forestry issues: the case of Clayoquot Sound, Commonwealth Forestry Review, 76(1):18-24.

5. Scientific Panel for Sustainable Forest Practices in Clayoquot Sound B.C. Progress report 2: review of current Forest Practice Standards in Clayoquot Sound, Pp.82, Victoria BC: Clayoquot Scientific Panel.

6. Harding , L.E. 1994. Threats to Diversity of Forest Ecosystems in British Columbia, Biodiversity in British Columbia: Our Changing Environment, Vancouver: Canadian Wildlife Service.



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