Clayoquot Sound, Canada

During the 'War in the Woods' in Clayoquot Sound in the 90s, over 800 people were arrested and Canada's environmental movement came-of-age. These protests continue to shape Canada’s political landscape.


The Clayoquot protests, also called the “War in the Woods”, were a series of protests in the 80s and 90s against clear cut logging of the temperate rainforest of Clayoquot Sound, on the west coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia in the unceded territory of the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations. The protests culminated in 1993, in what is was the largest act of civil disobedience in Canadian history, when over 900 people were arrested (Grant, 2010).

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Basic Data
NameClayoquot Sound, Canada
ProvinceBritish Columbia
SiteClayoquot Sound
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Deforestation
Logging and non timber extraction
Specific CommoditiesTimber
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsIn 1993, the BC government announced that logging companies, mainly MacMillan Bloedel, had the permission to clear-cut sixty two percent of Clayoquot land. This is around 217 000 hectares of ancient temperate rainforest.

Protests, blockades, boycotts and negotiations through out the 80s and 90s. lead by First Nations and environmental groups helped stop this scale of clear cut logging. This resistance led to the cancellation of millions of dollars’ worth of contracts for Clayoquot Sound wood products, the creation of Tribal parks and a UNESCO bioshpere reserves and other forms of forest protection.
Project Area (in hectares)350,000 hectares
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population3000
Start Date1984
End Date1995
Company Names or State EnterprisesMacMillan Bloedel Ltd. from Canada - Held permit to log Meares Island
Interfor from Canada - Involved in logging in Clayoquot in the 2000s
Iisaak Forest Resources Ltd - Iisaak Forest Resources is the First Nations/MacMillan Bloedel joint venture logging company that replaced MacBlo
The Coulson Group from Canada - Involved in logging in Clayoquot in the 2000s
BC Timber Sales (BCTS) from Canada - Involved in logging in Clayoquot Sound
International Forest Products from United States of America - Involved in logging in Clayoquot in the 90s
Relevant government actorsTla-o-qui-aht First Nation

Ahousaht First Nation

BC Provincial Government

BC Ministry of Environment

BC Ministry of Forests

Mayor and city council of Tofino
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersGreenpeace

Friends of Clayoquot Sound

Sierra Club

Forest Ethics

Wilderness Committee

Natural Resources Defence Council

Clayoquot Sound Conservation Alliance (Coalition made up of The Wilderness Committee works with Greenpeace, the Friends of Clayoquot Sound, Forest Ethics, the Sierra Club of BC and the Natural Resources Defense Council)
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingIndigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Social movements
Recreational users
Local scientists/professionals
Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation
Ahousaht First Nation
Fisher people
Forms of MobilizationArtistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Boycotts of official procedures/non-participation in official processes
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Land occupation
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Shareholder/financial activism.
Street protest/marches
Property damage/arson
Boycotts of companies-products
To prevent logging operations from continuing, protesters declared the island a Tribal Park. Markets campaign by Greenpeace and ForestEthics targeting buyers of BC wood.
Protesters invited musical celebrities and gave a concert that drew five thousand people to the remote protest site....Protesters distributed flyers, held up signs and banners with slogans, and even chained themselves to bulldozers, camped out in trees, and engaged in sit-ins to prevent MacMillan Bloedel from clear cutting...Radical environmentalists drove 20,000 big metal spikes into Clayoquot trees to deter loggers from cutting down the trees. This tactic also aimed to destroy MacMillan Bloedel chainsaws or circular saws if loggers attempted to cut down the trees. While the protesters meant to tree-spike to prevent clear cutting, workers feared injury or death from metal splinters. (Vanchieri, 2011). The Friends of Clayoquot Sound and the Wilderness Committee worked on building a trail network on Meares Island to bring attention to the island's spectacular ancient forests. The Tla-o-qui-aht and Ahousaht First Nations documented the many sites showing aboriginal use on the island and they launched a court case based on Aboriginal Title. The Tla-o-qui-aht and Ahoushat First Nations suceeded in getting a court ordered freeze on logging on Meares Island which has been in effect until this day (Wilderness Committee, n.d.)
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Other Environmental impacts
Potential: Noise pollution, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
OtherEnvironmentalists in Clayoquot argued that clear cutting destroys the original forest ecosystem, which leads to habitat loss, soil erosion, bare mountains, landslides and devastated fish streams (Vanchieri, 2011).
Health ImpactsVisible: Other Health impacts
Potential: Malnutrition
OtherImpact on traditional food systems, including salmon.
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Increase in violence and crime, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Other socio-economic impacts
Project StatusStopped
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCriminalization of activists
Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Institutional changes
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
Negotiated alternative solution
Strengthening of participation
Project cancelled
Withdrawal of company/investment
Development of AlternativesNew forms of ecosystem protection were forged, such as tribal parks, that balanced preservation of trees with livelihood and sustainable harvest by First Nations.

International market boycott strategies were experimented with.

New forms of forest co-management and governance emerged from these decades of this struggle.

First Nations created new practices and systems of conservation economics.
Do you consider this as a success?Yes
Why? Explain briefly.Significant area was protected from logging. Clear cut logging lost broad social acceptability. Protected areas were created. Indigenous control over resources and decision-making was increased. Forms of mobilization were forged and popularized. Resistance networks were formed. Environmental activism became more mainstream. Lessons were learnt about the complex alliances between First nations and Environmental groups.
Sources and Materials

(Wikipedia, Clayoquot Sound)
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(Wikipedia, Clayoquot Protests)
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(Vanchieri, 2011) Environmentalists defend old forest in Clayoquot Sound, B.C., Canada, 1993. Global Nonviolent Action Database.
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(Clapperton, 2019) Environmental Activism as Anti-Conquest: The Nuu-chah-nulth and Environmentalists in the Contact Zone of Clayoquot Sound. Activism on the Ground, 181.
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(Grant, 2010) Clayoquot Sound. The Canadian Encyclopedia
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(Clayoquotbiospherereserve, n.d.) Website.
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(Tindal, 2013) Twenty years after the protest, what we learned from Clayoquot Sound. Globe and Mail
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(Hume, 2013) Stephen Hume: Clayoquot protest 20 years ago transformed face of environmentalism. Vancouver Sun
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(FOCS, n.d.) Friend of Clayoquot Sound Website.
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(Wilderness Committee, n.d.) Clayoquot Sound Backgrounder.
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Other Documents

UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Sourced from:
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Haa-hoo-ilth-quin (Cedar Man). Photo by Robert Soderlund Sourced form:

Perhaps the most visible example of joint Nuu-chah-nulth and non-Aboriginal activism was the protest held on 20 October 1984, outside the provincial legislature in Victoria, British Col-umbia’s capital, where the 23-foot-high welcome figure Haa-hoo-ilth-quin(“Cedar Man”) carving by Nuu-chah-nulth artist Joe David, was on display (Clapperton, 2019).
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Clayoquot Sound Sourced from:
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Clayoquot Sound Map Sourced from:
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1993 Protests and Arrests Sourced from:
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Meta Information
ContributorJen Gobby with Jeh Custerra of 'Friend of Clayoquot Sound'
Last update10/04/2019