UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

The Islands Trust : an institutional experiment in the management of scarce natural and social resources Porcher, Laura Kathryn


This thesis examines the Islands Trust as an institutional experiment in environmental management. Evaluation is made of the performance of the Islands Trust and the overall institutional system, on the basis of objectives stated prior to and following the inception of the Trust. Public choice theory proves useful in explaining the behavior of the three principle categories of actors in the institutional system: voters, bureaucrats, and politicians. The objectives of the study are 1) to examine the extent to which the Trust has fulfilled the intent of the Islands Trust Act, and 2) to discover the factors which have contributed to this degree of success or failure. Initially a study is made of the legal and historical setting of resource management, both in Canada generally and specifically in the trust area. The evolution of the Islands Trust is described. An examination of the intent of the Islands Trust provides the basis on which evaluation is made. Intent is derived from the Report of the Select Standing Committee on Municipal Matters which recommended instituting the Trust in 1973, the Legislative Debates from 1973 to 1979, and the policy statement of the Islands Trust in 1975. Summarizing these three sources, the Trust was intended 1) to act as the mechanism of coordination and control of island development, 2) to ensure orderly development of the islands, 3) to offer significant local control while protecting the provincial interests in the scenic beauty, rural atmosphere, and recreational amenities of the trust area. Empirical analysis is made of three major problem areas in island development: Crown land, subdivision, and forestry. For each of these broad issues, statistics describing the problems, decision-making procedures, Islands Trust involvement, and Islands Trust relations with other agencies are examined. Case studies are used extensively. Islands Trust files, attendance at Islands Trust meetings, and discussions with islanders and government agencies are the main data sources. Public choice theory suggests why the institutional system operates as it does. The theory makes two fundamental assumptions: 1) all people act rationally, and 2) all people act in their own selfish interests. The thesis makes an implicit assumption in its definition of vested interests that economic interests and interests in holding power as an end (rather than as a means to an end) are particularly strong motivators of behavior. Under these assumptions a model is built, describing the behavior of voters, bureaucrats, and politicians. Empirically it is found that the Islands Trust has few powers with which to fulfill its mandate. Regarding the three main intents of the Trust, results were as follows: 1. No single mechanism of control of island development exists. Other government agencies are reluctant to cooperate with Trust objectives, and to submit to the coordinating role of the Trust. 2. Development has become much more orderly, but some environmental and social problems persist, over which the Trust has minimal control. 3..Since the Trust has little authority, there is little local control. Provincial interests are protected with a conservationist tendency. . The Islands Trust has achieved success in fulfilling its mandate, to the extent that it has been given powers to do so. . Several theoretical conclusions are suggested. Trustees may be interested in protecting the island environments because 1) they wish to get re-elected and the majority of their electorates want the islands protected, and 2) the power of the Trust itself is derived from fulfilling the Trust mandate. People with vested interests, particularly property rights, tend to disproportionately influence decisions. Pressure from people with vested interests tends to cause politicians to pressure bureaucrats to bend rules. Bureaucrats are eager to promote their agency's mandate, and tend to adapt their programs to the interests of their clientele. The thesis has important implications with respect to democracy, environmental protection, and integrated resource management. It appears that further decentralization of power may lead to positive results with respect to coordination and integrated resource management, environmental protection, and local control.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


For non-commercial purposes only, such as research, private study and education. Additional conditions apply, see Terms of Use https://open.library.ubc.ca/terms_of_use.