Clayoquot Habitat OVERVIEWThe Clayoquot region comprises a diverse range of ecosystems, including ocean, streams and rivers, lakes, fjords, reefs and islands, mountains, forests and sand beaches. A number of narrow ocean passages with fast tidal currents are rich in marine species, some of which are rare elsewhere in B.C. The dominant forest species are western hemlock, western red cedar, amabilis fir and western yellow cedar. Higher elevations support mountain hemlock forests and parkland. Periodic heavy rainfalls produce rapid fluxes in water flows down the mountainsides, bringing critical nutrients to the coastal waters. Ninety-three percent of the land base is forested.
The primary watersheds of Clayquot Sound form the largest contiguous piece of wilderness rainforest on the Island, with 265,000 hectares of densely forested islands, valleys, and inlets. Of the 90 watersheds on the Island larger than 5,000 hectares, only five remain untouched. Three of these are in Clayoquot Sound: the Megin, Moyeha, and Sydney.
As part of a declining mass of coastal temperate rain forest, Clayoquot Sound is one of the world's last remaining stands of rare coastal ecotype brought about by the close interaction of forest and ocean. In this region of magnificent ancient forests, trees can grow 15 feet in diameter and as old as 1,500 years. A diverse array of wildlife inhabits this area, including black bear, cougar, wolves, otters, bald eagles and the endangered marbled murrelet. The Sound supports grey, humpback and orca whales, all species of Pacific salmon, and the earth’s second largest shark, the basking shark. The mudflats and estuaries near Tofino constitute the only part of the Pacific flyway that is on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Hosting well over 100,000 migrating waterfowl, the area is one of the most important for migratory birds in B.C
In spite of its beauty, Clayoquot Sound's commercial value as a logging resource is a competing interest which threatens what is possibly the last accessible area in North America where long-term temperate rainforest research, and conservation of interdependent marine and terrestrial ecosystems, remain a viable prospect. The habitat is also impacted by fish farming, the increase in tourism, related development and recreational activity.
Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve
With the support of local First Nations, local communities, and local, provincial, and federal governments, in January 2000 Clayoquot Sound became designated as the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve (CSUBR). The CSUBR is a member of the international network of UNESCO World Biosphere Reserves.
The Clayoquot Biosphere Trust (CBT), a federally registered, British Columbia incorporated, non-profit charitable organisation, is the cornerstone of the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. The CBT supports local research, education, and training that is consistent with a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve’s objectives of conservation and sustainable development. The CBT is responsible for both managing an endowment fund and developing guidelines for program funding from the income earned from the fund. http://www.clayoquotbiosphere.org
The Clayoquot Archive, located at the CBT, is a collection of primary documents related to the politics of land-use in the Clayoquot region. An on-line Index is accessible through the Trust's website. Queries about Archive access should be directed to the Trust.
Clayoquot Sound Central Region Board
The mission of the Central Region Board (CRB) is to manage land and resources in Clayoquot Sound, prior to the conclusion of a treaty, in a manner that provides opportunities for First Nations consistent with aboriginal resource uses and heritage. The CRB serves as a link between the BC government, First Nations and other local communities. The Board has the responsibility of reviewing plans produced by any BC agency or ministry empowered to make resource management and land use decisions.
All meetings of the CRB are open to the public. For more information, visit the CRB website
These areas are selected to preserve representative and special natural ecosystems, plant and animal species, features and phenomena. The key role of ecological reserves is to contribute to the maintenance of biological diversity and the protection of genetic materials.
Megin River Ecological Reserve (50 hectares) Located at the mouth of Megin River, Shelter Inlet, 21 km NNW of Tofino. Megin River Ecological Reserve was established for the preservation of alluvial Sitka spruce-western red cedar forest.
Cleland Island Ecological Reserve (7.7 hectares ) Located 14 km west of Tofino, 4km off the west coast of Vargas Island. This reserve was established to protect breeding populations of many species of seabirds, including the Wandering Tattler and Surfbird, Tufted Puffin, Marbled Murrlets, Rhinoceros Auklet and Black Oystercatchers. During migration long lines of loons and scoters fill the horizon and Harlequin Ducks frequent the rocky shorelines. Black-legged Kittiwake appear in spring and Hermann’s Gull in late summer. Cleland Island Ecological Reserve is closed to the public; however, local guides offer boat-based viewing of these seabirds.
Up until the late 1980s, dams, logging and salvage logging for shake and shingle products negatively impacted ecosystems, choking many streams with logging waste, blocking fish passage. Salmon, once measured in thousands, dwindled to hundreds or less by the early 1990s. This crisis has helped bring change to forest practices as well as a directed effort to restore past damage.
Kootowis and Staghorn Creeks The award winning stream and streamside restoration of parts of Kootowis and Staghorn Creeks are examples of positive change and environmental action. Streams have been cleared of debris and banks stabilized, pools are now protected by anchored logs for fish habitat, and gravel beds have been established for spawning salmon. This project area can be visited by hiking the 5 km trail along a deactivated logging road, or by driving the 16 km Fisheries Restoration Interpretive Drive. (This interpretive drive was created in 1999 to highlight years of restoration efforts that have taken place in the Kennedy Watershed.)
These restoration activities are part of the overall Kennedy Watershed Restoration Project, which has the primary objective of restoring the hydrological, biological and riparian functions of Staghorn, Kootowis, Sandhill and Lost Shoe Creeks.
Yaakhsis Creek Restoration In 2000, the Hesquiaht First Nation and Northwest Ecosystem Institute undertook the restoration of lower Yaakhsis Creek to promote stable rearing and spawning habitats to help rebuild depressed coho and chum salmon stocks in Hesquiat Harbour. More than 40 pieces of large woody debris were cabled together in the creek to promote improved salmon habitats. Hesquiaht crews continue to monitor the creek channel and salmon stocks that use it during the fall. To date salmon have been counted in various locations in the creek channel using areas of restored habitat.
A critical wildlife habitat for thousands of migratory and shorebird populations, the Tofino mudflats, is a protected wildlife management area (WMA) covering 1,650 hectares of intertidal habitat. The area supports over 200,000 shorebird populations, as well as important feeding and rearing habitat for salmon, crabs and clams. A long-term management plan will be created through a partnership with the First Nations, local governments, industry and area residents.
The Scientific Panel for Sustainable Forest Practices in Clayoquot Sound (1995) recommended the development of watershed plans intended to aid forest planning. The province, through the Technical Planning Committee, is responsible for completing these plans. Three of the watershed plans are complete and the remaining 11 are scheduled for completion by March 31, 2004. Once the watershed plans are completed, the Central Region Board (above) will conduct a community review of the plans and allow for public comment.