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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The politics and science of environmental protection : the case of forestry - ungulate management in the Nimpkish watershed on Vancouver Island, B.C. Sturmanis, Karl Martins


Wildlife management in British Columbia has experienced over the last two decades a situation where continued pressure from logging and other forest uses has forced wildlife into an ever shrinking island of survival. What is needed from a resource planner's point of view is a means of elevating and sustaining public concern in the issue of forestry-wildlife management and to ensure that an appropriate management program to protect critical ungulate habitat is designed and implemented by resource managers. Lord Eric Ashby has proposed a model that describes the components necessary for successful political action in protecting environmental values, namely: an aroused public conscience, a feasible technology of protection, an objective and disinterested assessment of the hazard to the environment and an effective tool for administration. Ashby argues that each component is a step of a process and that each is necessary to act as a catalyst for the succeeding steps, resulting ultimately in the implementation of a political decision. Ashby's model in a slightly modified form is used to analyze the forestry-ungulate management program in the Nimpkish watershed on northern Vancouver Island. The Nimpkish watershed was chosen as a case study in that it has an emerging forestry-ungulate management program and also because of the considerable public interest that has been expressed in the area. The Tsitika Integrated Resource Plan is also looked at to compare the approach taken there with the one taken in the Nimpkish watershed. Of special interest is the design of the public consultation program and the melding of the scientific data with the issues and aspirations of the different interested publics and industry. The Nimpkish case study reveals that Ashby's first component of an arousal of public conscience has occurred although it has been somewhat fractured and erratic over time. However, there has been a convergence of some of the interests of the different groups that has created sufficient pressure for the government to analyze the situation and to commit itself to make a policy decision on the issue of habitat reservation for ungulates. Ashby's second component of scientific assessment and prescription of appropriate management action is fulfilled, but only at the technical level. There still remains some difficulty with regard to the assignment of monetary value to intangible resource values such as wildlife. The third component, an effective tool for administration, has not been totally satisfied in the case of the Nimpkish management proposal. While there is substantial co-operation and collaboration at the operational level between the ministries of Forests and Environment, a serious inertia remains at the senior policy decision-making level. Some possible approaches that could alleviate the Nimpkish situation and others like it include a strengthening of legislation to help facilitate inter-agency resource planning. The public could also be better informed regarding resource conflict issues and thus be better prepared for the consultative stages of the planning process. There appears to be a strong public reaction against the use of benefit-cost analysis in determining value for intangibles such as wildlife protection. Finally, there is a need to create situations where politicians are comfortable in making policy decisions regarding resource use conflicts. One approach would be the encouragement of incremental decisions that lead eventually to a broader policy position in favour of protection of wildlife habitat. Another approach is to blend scientific and non-scientific views as occurred in the Tsitika Integrated Plan. While the Tsitika experience may not appear to alter present modes of decision-making significantly, it is possible that prolonged exposure to the process may indeed alter the manner in which resource conflicts are resolved - hopefully in favour of a more balanced approach to resource use where conservation holds equal value with exploitation.

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