UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Planning the agricultural development of crown land in the marginal fringe Lidstone, Allan Bertram


The marginal fringe region of Canada is an agricultural area which is near the environmental and economic limits for commercial agricultural production. Combinations of physical factors and social and economic influences result in an area that experiences dramatic shifts in land use and agricultural development. Government policy is, however, a potentially significant controlling and stabilizing factor in the region's development. It is therefore fundamentally important that government plan its diverse functions and responsibilities in the marginal fringe to ensure an effective, equitable and efficient allocation of society's scarce resources. This thesis analyses existing planning programs for the development of agriculture on Crown land in Canada's marginal fringe region. It seeks to determine whether these programs have the potential to ensure the efficient and equitable development of agricultural land. This thesis also addresses the problem of how we should effectively develop our shrinking supply of undeveloped arable land and whether existing planning programs adequately address the major issues in the development process. The methods of investigation include a series of three case studies: St. John's, Newfoundland; Fort Nelson, British Columbia and; Fort Vermilion, Alberta. The case studies are analysed using a framework based on an idealized planning process developed in-the first chapter. This framework is applied to representative planning exercises in each case in order to illustrate the overall planning program's strengths and weaknesses. Based on this broad analysis, I present, in conclusion, the most crucial questions for developing effective planning programs in the marginal fringe and apply these questions to the cases studied. Official reports and surveys, detailed correspondence, personal and telephone interviews, and first-hand experience form the basis for analysis in the case studies. A literature review is the basis for the contextual elements developed in Part I of this thesis. The results of this study raise a number of concerns about existing planning programs for the agricultural development of Crown land in the marginal fringe, particularly in British Columbia and Newfoundland. The crucial issues for developing effective planning programs in the marginal fringe include the need for a clearly articulated, stable yet flexible, program focussing on the marginal fringe region. The agricultural lead agency's involvement is crucial for these programs. Further questions consider how well environmental factors are inventoried, evaluated and communicated to decision-makers; whether adequate socio-economic assessments are permitted; if alternative resource development options to agriculture are considered; whether government programs related to agricultural development are effective or whether they are inconsistent with planning program objectives, and whether the public understand and support the planning program. Planning the agricultural development of Crown land in the marginal fringe is in its infancy. Sudden changes to programs, as in British Columbia, and funding deadlines, as in Newfoundland, are harmful to the efficient and effective development of frontier resources and they erode government credibility. Some jurisdictions, such as Alberta, are making rapid strides in applying many of the traditional planning techniques, although social and economic assessment is very weak or absent altogether in each of the programs studied. Usually, decisions are based on a narrow assessment of environmental factors and there are often significant gaps in essential data, especially climate. Alternative resource development options to agriculture are seriously considered only in British Columbia. Only in Alberta has the vital element of public support begun to be appreciated. Elsewhere, public involvement is, more or less, neglected or mishandled. In conclusion, this thesis raises a number of issues requiring future research, related mainly to socio-economic assessment and planning program development. Also a series-of more detailed normative principles are offered for the improvement of planning programs for the agricultural development of Crown land in the marginal fringe.

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