Spaces for public participation in crown land governance

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University of New Brunswick


This research examines spaces for public participation in Crown (public) land governance over the past 15 years through an exploratory, comparative study focused on the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick (NB) and Nova Scotia (NS). The objective of the research is to critically analyze the social dimensions of sustainable forest management (SFM) by identifying barriers to and opportunities for improved public involvement in Crown land policy-making in the two provinces. Indicators at the national level fail to account for provincial variations. The research uses a comparison of economic relevance of the provincial forest industries to set the context for an assessment that rests on document analysis, participant observation, semi-structured interviews, and surveys, social network analysis of key forestry stakeholders in these provinces, and economic data. This study demonstrates how institutional failures, combined with unfavorable fiscal circumstances, have created an exceptionally strong bargaining position for corporate interests in NB, potentially limiting the social dimensions of Crown land policy-making. NS has slowly transitioned away from the Crown land management status quo, which historically focused primarily on supporting the forestry industry. Notwithstanding this transition, decision-making remains centralized in NS, with higher levels of government continuing to direct policy. NS, unlike NB, recently introduced participatory processes to inform their natural resource strategy; however, the progress of implementation is still being scrutinized. The economic diversity in NS and its forestry sector follows trends closer to the national average. The different emphasis on the economic importance of the forestry sector in each province has influenced respective approaches to Crown forest policy, limiting or enabling public participation in Crown land governance.