By Margo Malcolm & Jamie Gripich
On the west coast of Vancouver Island, change is as constant as
the tide. Over the last 25 years changes and challenges have hit small west
coast communities as relentless as the waves beating its shore. The District of
Ucluelet has been meeting repeated challenges, rolling with the curl and
celebrating “life on the edge.” Ucluelet, recently granted official Resort
Community status, is a town on the move and planning further ahead than ever
Forests for the Community
The realignment of the logging industry in the 1990s had a big
impact on Ucluelet, whose roots are as a logging and fishing village. Hundreds
of family-supporting jobs were lost, yet a large part of the local economy
still relied on the forest as a vital part of its economy, and will continue to
in the future.
The community is working on a joint application with its
neighbour, the Toquaht First Nation, for a Community Forest designation from
the provincial Ministry of Forests. This designation will give the community
and First Nation land use control of local forests. It not only allows for
harvesting of trees, but also other long-term sustainable forest activities,
including value-added milling and possibly even small scale hydro-electric
"The Community Forest is a great way to go," says
Dianne St. Jacques, Ucluelet's Mayor. "We're pretty excited about the
Community Forest and partnering with the Toquaht First Nation. We're both
looking for economic benefits from the forest."
In November 2007, the Toquaht, along with four other area
bands, finalized and accepted the historic Ma'nulth Treaty with the Provincial
Government. Ucluelet is in the process of meeting community to community with
the bands to discuss joint land use planning for the whole Ucluth Peninsula.
"It's a whole new chapter in life for all of us out
here," says St. Jacques. "There are a lot of unknowns surrounding the
process, but we look forward to working through the unknowns with our
High Praise for Small Community
This holistic approach to planning has gained favourable
recognition for Ucluelet outside of its borders. In February the district
received the Vancouver Island Economic Developer's Association (VIEDA)
inaugural "Prestige Award" award. That followed on the heels of
Ucluelet being selected as one of 14 communities selected in the Community
Action on Energy and Emissions (CAEE) Program for their conservation practices.
And this year the town also received the Premier's Award for Innovation for
their Bear Smart Program.