By developing an appropriate model for ecosystem services via scenarios, First Nations can have a better understanding of what sustainable economic pathways are available to them. In recent years, Clayoquot Sound (Tofino, Ahousaht and Tla-o-qui-aht) has developed new sources of sustainable employment, focusing on ecotourism and selective logging based on co-management strategies. These options have considerable potential for ecosystem services payment strategies, where private and/or public stakeholders can benefit from the continued maintenance of local forests, rivers, lakes, etc. As well, it addresses two systemic policy issues: the undervaluation of ecosystems and the services these deliver, and the re-empowerment of First Nations as land stewards in their territories.

Creating EMS programs has been in the mind of local decision-makers for many years. In 2011, members of the Ahousaht First Nation contacted Dr. Nikolakis from UBC and asked for his support to materialize their ideas. Since then, other nations and local stakeholders of the Clayoquot Sound joined the project and trusted GVS to act as a neutral facilitator and expert consultant for the creation of a regional EMS project.


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In partnership with the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation and the District of Tofino, GVS is advancing pilot projects to build First Nations Ecosystem Management and Stewardship (EMS) in Clayoquot Sound. EMS programs have the potential to (1) diversify the local economy; (2) produce jobs for First Nations and youth; and (3) help sustain the environment in the region and maintain the competitiveness of the local tourism economy. Through stakeholder workshops with leaders and members of Tla-o-qui-aht, local businesses and other civil groups, GVS built awareness on EMS opportunities and produced a plan to implement EMS programs in Tofino and the broader Clayoquot Sound region.



PHASE 1: Build Relationship and assess the needs of the community (2011-2016)

Over the years, we build trust and relationship with stakeholders of Clayoquot Sound. The first initial of the project seek to answer the following questions to further dialogue on PES :

  1.  to understand and document any PES programs in Clayoquot Sound
  2.  to assess the acceptability of PES among a broader group of stakeholders (industry, civil actors, NGOs and the general public)
  3.  to explore the potential of PES for First Nations and describe what this involvement will look like.

Findings of an initial choice experiment on individual preferences for common property highlighted that introducing communication in a group setting led individuals to change their preferences on the land use of the Clayoquot Sound region. Following this insight into the role of ‘collective reflection’ in research methods to assess Indigenous Peoples land use preferences, we conducted five focus groups and a discussion in March and April 2016 to answer these questions. These groups consisted of representatives from business, First Nations, Tofino Mayor and Council, NGOs and individual tourists.


  • Workshops demonstrated that the two preferred land use options are Conservation and Restoration (42%) and Tourism (34%).
  • PES is occurring in Clayoquot Sound and programs are based around First Nations ‘Cultural Services’, but these arrangements are not formalized and most ecosystem users simply opt-out from paying and free-ride.
  • The results highlighted that PES is acceptable to most participants and is also viewed as creating better management outcomes and establishing partnerships with First Nations.
  • PES is also gaining traction among First Nations who view it as a mechanism to obtain recognition as stewards of the landscape in ways consistent with their stewardship values.
  • Respondents’ with-communication in a group setting were more likely to switch their vote to Tourism Promotion. This is because these groups can share their opinions and decide among trade-offs in a transparent way, which trust between parties.

For more information, please read the following reports:

The Potential for Payments for Environmental Services in Clayoquot Sound: Pathways for First Nations Participation

The effect of communication on individual preferences for common property resources: A case study of two Canadian First Nations

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PHASE 2: Transformative Scenario Planning Workshops (September-November 2017)

What will Clayoquot Sound’s economy look like in 2050? What do people want for future generations in the region? And how do we get there?

There were three approaches used to answer these three questions. The first part involved the presentation of land use visions from Ahousaht and Tla-o-qui-aht, as well the Municipality of Tofino. Informed by the land use visions, the second part of this study involved the use of a transformative scenario planning (TSP) sessions, facilitated in collaborative workshops where representatives explored possible futures, and the ways that different groups can work together to influence the future. There were two phases of workshops in September and November 2017. The third part involved a survey to understand individual perceptions and preferences for the economic future of Clayoquot Sound, which helped validate insights from the TSP approach.

The results from these workshops highlight that an ecosystem service fee that supports First Nations stewardship to be paid by tourists coming to Clayoquot Sound, is acceptable, and supports important collective priorities

Key findings

  • Participants agreed that food and energy security would be a priority in 2050 and emphasized the need for healthy forests and fisheries, and the need to reintegrate traditional foods into First Nation’s diets for food security.
  • Stakeholders believed that a vibrant and thriving First Nations communities is fundamental to a successful tourism sector, and will be crucial in 2050.
  • Ten of fourteen respondents wanted conservation & restoration as the primary source for economic growth in 2050. 
  • The biggest drivers for economic change to 2050 were identified as ‘climate change’ and the environment.
  • The respondents believed there would be an increased ‘recognition of ecosystem services’, ‘opportunities in the conservation economy’, ‘recognition of ecosystems in the economy’ and ‘meaningful involvement of First Nations in the economy’.

For more information, please read the following reports:

First Nation Ecosystem Stewardship Program Workshop September 2017

Executive Summary: Visioning Clayoquot Sound's Economic Future: Transformative Scenario Planning Workshops


PHASE 3: Build & Design a pES Pilot project (MArch 2018 - ...)

A new phase of work is being planned which is applied research. The ambition of this work, conducted with partners, is to design, build and implement institutions that receive and manage ‘reciprocity’ or ‘natural capital’ fees. A pilot project will test what kind of institution should be built, and what are the rules on: decision making, managing and distributing funds, and evaluating the performance of these investments. The project will also evaluate the nature of reciprocity or natural capital fees, and how much these should be, and whether these should be voluntary or mandatory.