Clayoquot Summer 1993 – Assembling the People’s History of the Protest

Clayoquot Summer People’s History Dossier

Rainforest Dispatches - A Choogle On with Uncle Weed podcast series
Rainforest Dispatches podcast series

With a litany of environmental-related events in Blog Action Day, Tck Tck Tck, 350, Bridge to A Cool Planet – i’ve rustled up an overview of my recent climate change, activist-oriented media project.

Listeners to “Choogle On with Uncle Weed” podcast have noticed the special series called Rainforest Dispatches. Consider subscribing by RSS Feed iTunes, Email (gratis).

Here’s the blurb:

“A series of explorations and soliloquies from the Clayoquot Sound area on the west coast of Vancouver Island during a summertime water outage in the midst of a temperate rainforest. While figuring out what happened, Uncle Weed recollects the tense logging blockades in early 1990s and compares current conditions through lens of deep ecology and sustainable development practices.”

Part of my aim in this project is to gather a record of the events written and created by people camped amongst the stumps taking snapshots, writing in diaries, sharing recollections and collecting ephemera related to the blockades.

If this protest happened these days, Flickr, YouTube and Twitter would be rife with commentary, evidence and documentation but as i’ve found, most all materials found on the web are digitized by diligent documenters well after the event and i feel many historical treasures are trapped in show boxes, attics, aging memories and degrading film.

Collecting Clayoquot:

What i seek from you and others …

Recorded Recollections – Audio recording of your personal reflections from the blockades or from whereever you were. How did you get there? Why did you go? How did you keep you spirits up? How has participation influenced your life? Please record on any digital audio device (computers or iPhones work great) and email to choogleon (at) uncleweed (dot) net. Have old cassettes or other media? Please let me know.

Clayoquot Summer Photos – Snapshots from the Peace Camp and blockade lines, plus campouts on Long Beach, coffee breaks in Tofino, hitch-hike rides to the camp … Stick them on Flickr and tag ClayoquotSummer or email to choogleon (at) uncleweed (dot) net. Please CC license.

Showdown, the police and MacMillan Bloedel have arrived. The persons with the pink ribbons were peacekeepers, who were mostly successful in calming down emotions often running very high. By Aldo de Moor
Showdown, the police and MacMillan Bloedel have arrived. The persons with the pink ribbons were peacekeepers, who were mostly successful in calming down emotions often running very high. By Aldo de Moor

News Articles, Flyers, Signs -Did you keep a scrapbook of article, signs, posters or other miscellanea? Stick them on Flickr and tag ClayoquotSummer or email to choogleon (at) uncleweed (dot) net. Please CC license.

Clayoquot Mass Trails booklet – I’ve seen scans of a book made profiling everyone arrested and including some diaries from prison – do you have a digital copy or one i can digitize?

Impact of Arrest – For those 800+ who were arrested and sentenced in the mass trial, how has the arrest affected your life? Any problems with travel? How did you survive financially during the trail and sentence? What did you do during your 3 month house arrest? How did the arrest influence your life’s work? Positive or negative remarks welcome.

Any content i receive will find a place in my historical dossier via podcasts, photo galleries or artwork to be named later.

Clayoquot Resources (so far):

Many links are outdated and pointing to changed archives. Much of the evidence comes from mainstream media with their sound-bite-sized and often sensationalized segments. While interesting, this does not capture the significance of the event to generations of eco-advocates who really brought many points of view.

See the articles and resources i’ve assembled at: Clayoquot tag on Delicious social bookmarks

I’ve found EF!-ers’s talking about the soft approach against logging by the PeaceCampers and other celebrating and studying the non-violence and consensus building found in the cooperative community environment. Other discourse focuses on the way the big corporations dealt with the protests and other chronicle the court cases. Plus a few articles about the Clayoquot Summer legacy (mostly from the 10 year anniversary).

A few highlights:

Clayoquot Sound—A Summer of Protest by Luke Moore

Reading the injunction at Clayoquot Sound protest. Photo: Luke Moore.

Over the past summer, the Kennedy River Bridge entrance to logging operations on Clayoquot Sound became the site of one of the largest civil disobedience campaigns in Canadian history.

The protest followed the B.C. government’s decision on April 13 to allow MacMillan Bloedel to proceed with a harvesting plan that will see the eventual cutting of another 51 percent of the area’s old-growth forest. The B.C. government, perhaps coincidentally, is the largest single shareholder in MacBlo. Twenty-three percent of the forest has already been harvested.

Although industry refers to logging as “general integrated management,” and there is a lot of rhetoric about improved forestry practices, large scale forest management remains environmentally unsound. If there is any improvement, it is that the future clearcuts will be smaller. Since the government decision, a brand-new 125 hectare clearcut graces the side of a mountain visible from the Kennedy River Bridge.

The forest around Clayoquot Sound is one of the largest remaining stands of old-growth forest in North America. This is an irreplaceable cradle of rainforest biodiversity, and it can only be saved if the government will reverse its decision.

Peace camp established

To press for that reversal, a peace camp was set up by the Friends of Clayoquot Sound (FOCS), a Tofino-based environmental group which has fought for the protection of the forests for fourteen years. The camp served as a base for protesters, who blockaded the Kennedy River Bridge until the camp was closed down Oct. 4.

More Clayoquot Sound—A Summer of Protest

Blockades and Civil Disobedience (1993 – 1995), Whole Systems Engagement by Ann Svendsen & Myriam Laberge from Collective Wisdom Initiative

Blockade on Kennedy Bridge – Photographer unknown

In the summer of 1993, the battle in Clayoquot Sound escalated. Environmental groups organized a Clayoquot Sound Peace Camp, which attracted protesters from throughout North America and Europe. At least 9,000 people participated in demonstrations against clear-cut logging. More than 800 people were arrested in the largest act of civil disobedience in Canadian history when protesters massed to block logging roads and climbed trees to protect them from cutting. Suddenly, Clayoquot Sound was in the headlines around the world.

In October 1993, the government responded by initiating the Scientific Panel for Sustainable Forest Practices in Clayoquot Sound, an independent panel of First Nations and scientific experts. The Panel’s mandate was to develop world-class standards for sustainable forest management by combining traditional and scientific knowledge. Two years later, the Panel’s report recommended that clear cutting be replaced by variable retention forestry, an approach that would leave some trees standing in each area to protect the health of the forest ecosystem.

At the same time that the panel was developing its recommendations, the provincial government was engaged in negotiations with the First Nations to resolve their land claims. A joint resource management process was established with the First Nations of Clayoquot. Even as these initiatives were moving forward, however, environmentalists were escalating their campaigns against clear-cut logging in the rest of the province.

Clayoquot Sound: Not Out Of The Woods Yet! By Valerie Langer Common Ground

The ten year anniversary of the largest civil disobedience in Canadian history is approaching. During the summer of 1993 over 850 people were arrested and 12,000 people demonstrated in opposition to logging in the ancient forests of Clayoquot Sound.

The magnificent forests and the strength of the non-violent protests captured the imagination of the public and the media. Canadians, Americans and Europeans flocked to the Peacecamp, and every morning before dawn they caravanned down a dusty logging road to the demonstration site. When logging trucks arrived at the Kennedy River Bridge, the international media turned on their camera lights and brought the stand off to TV sets and radios all around the world.

Friends of Clayoquot Sound (FOCS) was there to facilitate people bringing their consciousness into action. A few years of action experience had trained us how to leverage that presence into the international forum. After the mass trials of the 850 arrestees Common Ground published an “Honour Roll” of those courageous souls who put their liberty on the line for the ancient forests of Clayoquot Sound.

Today art pieces featuring the protests hang on the walls of the Vancouver Art Gallery, and the BC Museum designates ‘Clayoquot ’93’ as one of the most significant events in BC’s history. Clayoquot was a fire in the belly, a symbol of our rage against environmental destruction and a cathartic outlet to do something about it.

The Summer of ‘93 – The Struggle for Clayoquot Sound by Aldo de Moor of Tilburg, The Netherlands, collection of snapshots from August 1993 on Wikicommons

Blocking the Logging Road15.jpg  Plenary meeting in the Peace Camp. Each night, all plans and conflicts were discussed in an effective consensus-seeking process. One of the main issues on the agenda always was who was going to be arrested the next day.Blocking the Logging Road15.jpg Plenary meeting in the Peace Camp. Each night, all plans and conflicts were discussed in an effective consensus-seeking process. One of the main issues on the agenda always was who was going to be arrested the next day. By Aldo de Moor

The arrested taken to the police station by school bus.The arrested taken to the police station by school bus. By Aldo de Moor

The entrance to the Peace Camp, base of the protesters.The entrance to the “Peace Camp”, base of the protesters. By Aldo de Moor

Wilderness & Resistance – Bears, Blockades & Burning Bridges By an Expatriated Biocentric Turtle Island Earth First!er in “Do or Die” Vol. 6

The Friends of Clayoquot Sound (FOCS) started as a radical group of various and sundry American draft-dodger hippies, traditional Nuu-Chah-Nuulth natives, tree spikers, and other dissident voices against the clearcut logging of the largest remaining lowland coastal temperate rainforest (280,000 ha.) [located on BC’s Vancouver Island]. In fact, one of the former directors of FOCS started the Society for the Protection of Intact Kinetic Ecosystems (SPIKE), which openly advocated spiking and claimed to have put nails into 20,000 trees.

Another director was convicted of burning a bridge to a logging site. Yet, by the summer of 1993, the campaign to save Clayoquot had evolved into one of massive civil disobedience; all summer long, every single day, one of the main logging roads was blockaded by crowds varying from perhaps 5,000 on the first day when the band Midnight Oil played, to just a handful of folks. Over 1,000 people were arrested that summer for criminal contempt of court by defying a court injunction to stay off the road. An extraordinary diversity of people came out and got involved: from raging grannies to loggers, peaceheads to saboteurs (more on that in a moment), New Agers to Anglican clerics, people came from all walks to take part. Hell, even a dozen Basques showed up who spoke no English but said in Spanish, “clearcutting kills men and the beasts.” Unfortunately, the campaign was to a certain extent controlled by the “peace nazis,” who were afflicted with a bad case of tunnel vision. Even though there were often hundreds of people around, the only form of protest allowed by FOCS was the stand-in-the-road-while-they-read-you-the-injunction-and-then-cart-you-off demonstration; consequently, there were only a few days all year that the logging was actually stopped. Usually, it was only a matter of a few minutes for the police to remove the demonstrators and then the trucks rolled on by.

Earth First! was definitely not welcome at that point, nor were tree-sitters, or lock-ons, or elves. Even though many FOCS activists are EF!ers, that summer saw a definite change of tactics in Clayoquot, one which perhaps foreshadowed the FoE/EF! conflict here. Many years of hard work by FOCS, and help from international groups like EF!, Greenpeace, and Rainforest Action Network among others, has resulted in the main logging company (Macmillan Bloedel) pulling out of Clayoquot, and the other company has had its cut reduced by 45%.

In a sense, Clayoquot has been saved and should be considered a victory. On the other hand, the government and timber industry are using the tiny area of Clayoquot as a smokescreen to cover up the fact that they are clearcutting the rest of the province.

University of Victoria’s “A Political Space” Clayoquot Project

The New York Times ad which sparked the protestThe New York Times ad which sparked the protest gathered at Univ. of Victoria Clayoquot Project

Clayoquot Info from “Friends of Clayoquot Sound“:


Interactive Map: Logging

Map of Intact Clayoquot Valleys

Vancouver Island Old Growth 1860

Vancouver Island Old Growth 2004

Historical Notes from FOCS

1992 Blockade at Clayoquot Arm Bridge of Kennedy Lake, 65 arrested, protesting MacMillan Bloedel’s logging at edge of intact Clayoquot River valley.

1993 International campaign takes off with ad in New York Times and FOCS trip to Europe. FOCS and allied environment groups call for boycott of MacMillan Bloedel and other companies. Largest peaceful civil disobedience in Canadian history is sparked by BC government’s decision to log 74% of Clayoquot Sound’s ancient forest. FOCS opens Peace Camp at “Black Hole”. Daily blockades and arrests begin at Kennedy River Bridge. 856 arrested and 12,000 participate during “Clayoquot Summer 93″.

1996 FOCS and Greenpeace takeover of Rankin Cove logging camp leads to First Nations-brokered truce between MacMillan Bloedel and environmentalists. Negotiations begin regarding protecting large intact (pristine) valleys in Clayoquot Sound from logging.

1997 FOCS begins a fish farm campaign aimed at reforming open net-cage salmon aquaculture in Clayoquot Sound and BC.

1999 FOCS helps to negotiate Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between 4 environment groups and Iisaak Forest Resources, the First Nations/MacMillan Bloedel joint venture logging company that replaced MacBlo. MOU commits Iisaak to protecting large pristine areas in its portion of Clayoquot Sound, while enviro groups agree to help market Iisaak’s wood. FOCS does not sign MOU in order to maintain its independent watchdog position.

What Is Clayoquot Sound?

Clayoquot Sound is a magnificent, biologically rich, mostly wilderness area on the west coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. It encompasses 350,000 hectares of land and ocean.

Sydney Valley
A view of Clayoquot Sound – Photo by Diego A. Garcia

The land portion of Clayoquot Sound is 265,000 hectares (2,650 square kilometers or 1,000 square miles), comprising about 8% of Vancouver Island. It is covered with ancient temperate rainforest, a globally rare forest type. The remaining 85,000 hectares of Clayoquot Sound consist of ocean — narrow inlets of the Pacific Ocean, into which empty rivers and lakes.

Clayoquot Sound occupies a straight-line distance along the coast of 90 kilometers, between Barkley and Nootka Sounds. It reaches a maximum of 35 kilometres inland, up to the crest of snow-capped mountains. These mountains are part of the central spine of Vancouver Island and form the headwaters of the rivers that drain Clayoquot Sound.

The “Sound” portion of the region’s name indicates an indented section of coastline, with numerous inlets and islands. “Clayoquot” — pronounced Klak-wot — comes from Tla-o-qui-aht, the name of one of the First Nations tribes who live here.

There are 5 communities in Clayoquot Sound: the town of Tofino and 4 First Nations reserves inhabited by Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations tribes. The total population of these 5 communities is about 3,000 (in 2005).

Two well-known parks lie in Clayoquot Sound: the Long Beach Unit of Pacific Rim National Park, and the southern portion of Strathcona Provincial Park. These and other parks protect one-third of Clayoquot’s land area and less than one-quarter of its productive ancient forest.

Industrial activities such as logging and fish farming have occurred and continue to occur across the landscape and ocean waters of Clayoquot Sound, but most of the Sound is still wilderness — intact forest and wild ocean. The spectacular scenery attracts about one million tourists to Clayoquot each year.

Whatcha think?