Unresolved questions of land and resource ownership, that have persisted from the colonial period, are limiting rain forest conservation in many parts of the Pacific Rim. In this outline of the liquidation of the ancient temperate forests of Pacific coast of Canada, the notion of the obscuring of the ‘cognitive map’, of various perceptions and social priorities, is explored in order understand contradictions of legal systems that contribute to continued conflict and instability. The local context for forest conservation are outlined for the Haida and Nuu-Chah-Nulth people as well as for the Province of British Columbia and the Government of Canada