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"The Intention Was Good": Legitimacy, Consensus-Based Decision Making, and the Case of Forest Planning in British Columbia, Canada

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The introduction of public participation into land and resource management planning in the Canadian province of British Columbia represents a unique application of alternative dispute resolution theory. Portentous in its scope and inclusivity, this case provides an opportunity to evaluate large-scale consensus decision-making processes within natural resources planning and management. Qualitative analysis of in-depth interviews, conducted from September 1997 to July 1998, revealed one overarching theme reflecting important issues and concerns to respondents: legitimacy. From respondents' perspectives, a successful public planning process must have fair representation, appropriate government resources, and be consensus driven--the three components of legitimacy. According to respondents, a legitimate planning process is a successful one. This observation has important implications for public policymakers involved in resource planning and for theorists and researchers working in this area as well.

Keywords: British Columbia; consensus-based decision making; environmental sociology; legitimacy; public participation; qualitative methods

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Sociology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, USA 2: Department of Sociology, Skidmore College Saratoga Springs, New York, USA

Publication date: 2004-01-01

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