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Participatory processes for public lands: Do provinces practice what they preach?

Lauren F Miller, University of New Brunswick
Solange Nadeau, Natural Resources Canada; Canadian Forest Service


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Here, we analyze the current spaces for public participation in Crown (public) land management through a comparative study that focuses on the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. We define spaces for public participation as opportunities for meaningful public involvement in the decision-making arena of forest management. We examine the experiences of public participation in these provinces in an exploratory study comparing perceptions of participatory processes and outcomes of the processes in these two provinces based on 15 years (1999–2014) of informant experience. The objective is to understand more fully the barriers and bridges to meaningful public participation and relate these perceptions to on-the-ground implementation. A primary goal is to understand how, over time, processes with unsatisfying outcomes shape the perceptions of the participants. Rather than focusing on one particular participatory process, this comparative study assesses participation over time to identify the limitations in the participatory environments of these two provinces. We take a qualitative research approach using semistructured interviews with 42 forestry stakeholders, combined with participant observation and document analysis. This research reveals: (1) the importance of historical and cultural context as ongoing power imbalances shape the current dialogue and spaces for participation; (2) periods of robust and sound attempts at public participation in both provinces, with disappointments in implementation giving rise to a sense of futility, a closed system, and mistrust of government and industry over time; (3) a system of privileged access in opposition to the ideals of deliberative democracy and an equitable decision-making process; (4) in New Brunswick, public land policy implementation that is not reflective of participatory processes or of interests outside government and industry; (5) in Nova Scotia, recent efforts to incorporate values outside the government-industry policy realm, demonstrating an attempt to shift toward a more collaborative system for public land management.

Key words

agency-client relations; capture; Crown land; forest certification; governance; New Brunswick; Nova Scotia; public land; public participation; sustainable forest management

Copyright © 2017 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087