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

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Addressing species loss and habitat degradation is a problem of global significance. Balancing trade-offs between development and conservation is an issue in Clayoquot Sound. To address such problems, policy makers, scholars and practitioners have pioneered market based instruments, such as payments for environmental services (PES), to help create incentives to mitigate species and habitat loss and to support development ambitions. PES programs include conservation banking, wetlands loss mitigation schemes, salinity offset credit schemes and cap and trade arrangements for carbon. These programs in practice have been shown to be successful in enhancing conservation and socio-economic outcomes.

There is strong community support for PES among First Nations in Clayoquot. In the summer of 2014, the Ahousaht and Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations conducted surveys in partnership with the UBC Department of Forest Resources Management to determine the types of preferred land management options. The results showed that “Conservation and Restoration was the most preferred land use option (42% votes), followed by Tourism Promotion (34% votes).” Further, “both Industrial Development and Status Quo were among the least preferred alternatives, receiving 12 percent of votes each."

Surveys and focus groups were conducted with all partner First Nation, in a number of phases. Project benefits included:

-       Help resolve trade-offs between development and conservation

-       Provide employment opportunities for Nuuchahnulth people living in their own communities

-       Potentially get people working back out on the land and stewarding their own territories in employment that reflects Nuuchahnulth cultural values of ecosystem management

-       Develop a stronger working relationship between Nuuchahnulth Nations and non-Nuuchahnulth services providers and industry in the Tofino area

-       Ensure the longevity of biodiversity and ecological integrity by providing opportunities alternative to resource extraction with a focus on conservation, restoration and collaboration

-       Present options for economic diversification as a response to high levels of unemployment and limited opportunities that are culturally appropriate