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Environmental activists unite to further protect Clayoquot Sound

Aerial photo of Clayoquot Sound.

SANDER JAIN/The Globe and Mail

The last time Dan Lewis and Bonny Glambeck teamed up on a big project, it shook the world.

Now the environmental activists who, in 1993, helped organized one of the largest acts of civil disobedience in Canadian history – the mass protests against logging in Clayoquot Sound – are back with another project.

On the 20th anniversary of an event that saw 10,000 people blocking logging roads, the couple are hoping to once again mobilize public opinion in defence of Clayoquot Sound.

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Mr. Lewis said the current concerns are about the imminent threat of mining, the ongoing impact of fish farms, the continued logging of old-growth forest and the possibility that offshore oil tankers could begin travelling along the west coast of Vancouver Island.

"The thought of having something bigger than the Exxon Valdez hitting Long Beach, it's just unthinkable," said Mr. Lewis of the possibility of an oil spill on the great, white beach that stretches along Pacific Rim National Park, just south of Tofino.

Huge protest rallies aren't being planned in defence of Clayoquot Sound just yet, but Mr. Lewis doesn't rule out that possibility.

"Those kinds of things are at the bottom of your tool kit," he said of the summer of protest which saw 800 people arrested and drew global attention to the issue of clear-cut logging in British Columbia. "You don't do that stuff unless you absolutely have to."

But if he had to, could he and Ms. Glambeck really do it again?

"I think we could. You know we did all that without social media, without the web and it actually went off okay," he said.

The first thing the couple has to do, however, is draw the public's attention back to Clayoquot Sound. Concerns about the area declined after government promised special land use planning in the wake of the protests of 1993. And further protections seemed to follow in 2000 when Clayoquot Sound was designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

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But Mr. Lewis said the protections offered have only been partial and he thinks when people learn about the threats to the area, they will be angry enough to protest again.

"Clayoquot Sound is not up there with Enbridge as far as being on people's radar. But I think if someone was to say, 'oh, we're going to open a mine in Clayoquot Sound,' then yeah, I think people would rally to that," said Mr. Lewis. "It's not that people don't care today about Clayoquot Sound – it's that people think they won and so it's slipped off their agendas. But if the public heard there was a mine opening I think people would freak … Clayoquot Sound is still sacred ground."

Mr. Lewis and Ms. Glambeck, who have spent the past two decades quietly running a kayaking company in Tofino, have put their business aside to focus full-time on environmental activism.

"We made a decision … to walk away from our business and dedicate the rest of our lives to protecting Clayoquot Sound," said Mr. Lewis.

They have formed Clayoquot Action and are going to start by taking on Imperial Metals Corp., a Vancouver-based company that in 2009 acquired rights to mine on Catface Mountain.

"Catface Mountain is within sight of Tofino … Catface Mountain really is at the heart of Clayoquot Sound. The thought of having a mine there is just unbelievable. We see that as a very serious threat," said Mr. Lewis.

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Fish farms are also a high priority target. Old-growth logging and oil tankers are farther down the list only because other groups are already working on those issues.

So how does it feel to be back on the front lines?

"It feels really good," said Mr. Lewis. "It seems like the right place and the right time. And we're the right people."

The last time he felt like that – the world noticed.

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About the Author
National correspondent

Mark Hume is a National Correspondent for The Globe and Mail, based in Vancouver, writing news and feature stories on a daily basis about his home province of British Columbia. His weekly column, which often challenges the orthodoxy on environmental issues, appears every Monday. More

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