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Evaluating Participative Capacity-building in Environmental Policy: Provincial Fish Protection and Parks Management in British Columbia, Canada

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For provincial fish protection and parks policy in British Columbia, the provincial government has recently experimented with the devolution of environmental management design through a range of participatory instruments. This paper examines this 'participative capacity-building' according to key criteria adopted by the provincial environmental bureaucracy. The corporate rationale for the use of participatory policy instruments is outlined, uncovering the shared causal assumptions of public agency officials about the linkages of these tools to general goals of procedural fairness and ecological competence. While the formative stage of the two environmental decision areas precludes any evaluation related to substantive policy outcomes, comparative findings on the appropriateness of the capacity-building are offered on the basis of internal staff appraisals and the views of key stakeholders. For parks management, the 1997-99 Park Legacy consultation process successfully adopted a variety of community-based participatory tools to discover shared values and interests on management issues. The process is widely acknowledged as having been inclusive, and its policy recommendations have reaffirmed the ecological role of provincial parks as well as endorsing the institutionalization of stakeholder participation in parks management. In the case of provincial fish protection, bureaucratic and political power-trading led to fragmented and skewed participative capacity-building. Negotiations on the critical regulatory area of streamside protection exposed key jurisdictional tensions between the federal, provincial and municipal governments.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: School of Social Sciences, University of North London, 62-66 Highbury Grove, London N5 2AD, UK. Tel: 020 7753 5033; Fax: 020 7753 5763; E-mail: [email protected]

Publication date: June 1, 2000

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