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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Local community participation in the establishment of national parks : planning for cooperation Octeau, Claudia

Abstract

The planning and management of parks and protected areas has become increasingly complex. Parks can no longer be managed as islands of wilderness in light of the interconnectedness of the social, economic and biophysical systems. Many protected areas today are failing to reach their conservation mandate while the sustainability of others is threatened. Among the predominant threats to national parks are those associated with surrounding communities. The need to actively involve local communities in protected areas planning and management, in order to build cooperative relationships between communities and the park agency, has been recognized since the late 70's. However, the traditional centralized planning approach has created a challenge for many park agencies to engage iri effective public participation. This thesis is an evaluation of Parks Canada's approach to public participation. Nine criteria of effective public participation were selected from the literature for the analytical framework. The evaluation was carried out in two steps. The first consisted in a detailed evaluation of the public participation approach used in the Saguenay St. Lawrence Marine Park (SSLMP) establishment process. The second step consisted in the analysis of the general approach to public participation and in the identification of the main constraints to effective public participation within Parks Canada. The evaluations were based on a series of interviews with Parks Canada personnel and other stakeholders involved in the establishment of national parks. In the SSLMP evaluation, it was found that most of the criteria were not considered in the development of a public participation approach. The main forms of public participation practiced consisted of public information sessions followed by public hearings. These forms of public participation contrasted significantly with the demand of the local communities for active involvement. The creation of the Consultation Committee towards the end of the establishment phase provided the communities with an opportunity for active involvement. The planners interviewed in both evaluations had limited knowledge of the theory and practice of public participation. The constraints identified by planners to the consideration of the criteria included time, money, the politics of the establishment process, and various technical and organizational limitations. As a result of the evaluation it was concluded that proposing criteria of effective public participation in order to assist planners in the development of a public participation strategy would not alone suffice to assure more effective public participation practices. Three areas of intervention were proposed to address 1) the skills development need 2) the development of an integrated planning approach which includes public participation, and 3) the disparity between the policies and the actual practice of public participation at Parks Canada.

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