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An evaluation of stakeholder involvement in the B.C. Ministry of Forests planning process Duffy, Dorli M.

Abstract

Disputes over forest land use and forest land management continue despite a formal planning process administered by the Ministry of Forests that is designed to achieve integrated resource use planning on B.C. Crown lands. These disputes result in costly and time-consuming delays in the completion and implementation of forestry plans. Calls continue for improved stakeholder participation and effective resolution of disputes and conflicts by the Ministry of Forests. At the same time, there is growing interest among decision-makers in alternative dispute resolution strategies, and particularly in the opportunities associated with consensus-based decision-making. The primary purpose of this thesis is to evaluate the Ministry of Forests forest planning process to determine if inadequacies in the institutional arrangements contribute to inadequate stakeholder involvement, thereby contributing to ongoing forestry disputes. Through a review of literature on participatory democracy and conflict management, twelve normative criteria are extracted, comprising elements of a planning and decision-making process which contribute to fairness, efficiency and stability in decision-making. These criteria are applied to the Ministry of Forests planning framework. Generally, the current planning framework proves inadequate in terms of making provisions for stakeholder involvement and conflict management. Decision-making by government provides limited opportunities for stakeholder involvement. Reforms to the planning process are necessary if fair, efficient and stable decisions are to be realized. Legislation must be amended to provide for meaningful stakeholder involvement, an appeal process and improved access to information. A comprehensive planning document which clearly defines the planning and decision-making processes is required. It should also clearly outline stakeholder involvement opportunities, key decision points and the appeal process. Provisions are required for intervenor funding, written reasons for decisions and effective monitoring of decision implementation. These revisions will contribute to a process which builds trust, relationships and understanding between forestry stakeholders in an effort to reduce forestry conflicts and disputes in this province.

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