A city of 4,900 people serving a region of 80,000, Duncan is the commercial hub of the Cowichan Valley – a region whose history and development is inseparable from BC’s coastal forest products sector. It is home to the BC Forest Discovery Centre, and one of Western Canada’s largest door manufacturers.


The City of Totems

Located almost exactly halfway between Victoria and Nanaimo, Duncan is renowned as the “City of Totems.” Despite holding the title of Canada’s smallest city (by area), over 40 stunning totem poles are packed into downtown Duncan – providing everyday reminders of the history and culture of the First Nations peoples who have inhabited the region for millennia, and of the Cowichan Valley’s bountiful timber.

Surrounded by forests, lakes, farmland, and bisected by the Cowichan River, Duncan’s spectacular geography and natural resource endowment is always in evidence. It’s easy to see why Duncan is a Forestry Friendly community.

A historic Centre of Forestry

Duncan’s population experienced strong growth in the 1880s, following the completion of the Esquimalt & Nanaimo Railway. It didn’t take long for forestry to establish itself as a key local industry. In 1887, it was between two Cowichan Valley communities that BC’s first-ever shipment of logs took place: logs were transported from Mount Prevost (adjacent to Duncan) to the coastal Cowichan community of Chemainus, the site of a significant mill that had already been operating for a quarter-century.

Reflecting its status as the central node of a historic forestry region, Duncan is home to the BC Forest Discovery Centre, which chronicles the vibrant history of forestry in the Cowichan Valley – including the prolific network of logging railroads that crisscrossed the valley’s terrain before the advent of trucking. The BC Forest Discovery Centre is a must-visit for all British Columbians with an interest in the unique history of our coastal region.

Home to a Diverse Forestry Trade

Alongside other First Nations in BC’s coastal region, the Cowichan Tribes are harnessing the power of forestry to create jobs and improve lives. Khowutzun Forest Services (KFS) generates local employment in the forestry sector, along with wealth for the community.  KFS performs a host of services for the Cowichan Valley’s many logging operations including silviculture, forest management and planning, harvesting, and fire-fighting. The Cowichan Tribes’ expertise in forestry shouldn’t come as a surprise: after all, its members have been harvesting forest resources for generations to build the necessities of life.

Duncan is also home to value-added forestry businesses: Wescon Doors, also known as Wescon Cedar Products, was born in 1985 as a humble 2-person operation. Today, it is one of Western Canada’s largest door manufacturers – with a 50,000 sq. ft. production facility exporting across Canada, the United States, and Asia.

Combining Duncan’s status as a regional hub with the Cowichan Valley’s strengths in both logging and value-added forestry operations, forestry is well-positioned to maintain its place in Duncan’s resilient, diverse economy – just as it has for over 125 years.

About Forestry Friendly Communities BC

Learn more

Forestry Friendly Communities was started in 2016 as a way to celebrate the proud history and rich future of BC’s coast forest sector.  The term “Forestry Friendly” is intended to recognize pride in, and an ongoing commitment to BC’s forestry sector. In fact, the forest sector supports 1 in 16 jobs in BC. It also contributes $12.4 billion to the provincial GDP and injects $2.5 billion in taxes and fees to the three levels of government.

For more than a century, the forest sector has fueled our coastal economy and shaped our communities. Today, people and businesses across BC’s coastal region depend on transportation networks and other services developed for our forest sector. Families are able to earn a living while enjoying a unique West Coast lifestyle.

Forestry Friendly Communities is proudly brought to you by companies and associations working in forestry in coastal BC.