TLDR: Evaluating the effectiveness of stakeholder advisory committee participation in forest management planning in Ontario, Canada

 

After over a centtldrury in the control of big timber companies, local stakeholder advisory committees are becoming involved in forest management in Canada. How well is it working? This month’s contribution from the IAP2 Canada Research Committee looks at an evaluation of the process and results in Ontario

Robson, Mark & Julie Rosenthal. (2014). Evaluating the effectiveness of stakeholder advisory committee participation in forest management planning in Ontario, Canada. The Forestry Chronicle, 90:3, 361-370.

At the time this article was written, local involvement in forest management activities through stakeholder advisory committees (SACs) was occurring in nine Canadian provinces and was mandatory in five.

This article examines the effectiveness of SACs in this context of forest management planning in one jurisdiction – Ontario. Ontario’s model for SAC participation in forest management planning is that of Local Citizens Committees (LCCs). LCCs number 40 across Ontario and have been active for over 20 years (p. 362). Comprised of a range of stakeholders and Aboriginal people, LCC’s are meant to follow a consensus-based decision making model, are required to report their activities and are subject to audits to review their effectiveness (p. 363). Robson and Rosenthal’s evaluation examines goals of public participation and methods of facilitating success relying upon both quantitative and qualitative information gleaned from provincial audits of the 40 LCCs.

A review of the LCC audits illuminated a variety of challenges with the LCCs including:

  • Inconsistent attendance and participation in LCC meetings and activities;
  • Proximity of participant location to LCC meeting location (remote locations);
  • “lack of resources and/or capacity to participate” (p. 367);
  • Stakeholder fatigue;
  • Complexity of the forest management planning process (p. 366);
  • Technical complexity of the information available to LCC members and public stakeholders;
  • Industry-specific terminology;
  • Effectiveness of communication between the forest management planning team for a forest management unit and the LCC;
  • Potential for underrepresentation of key interests on the LCC; and
  • Lack of general awareness within the public of LCCs and their role in forest management planning, potentially indicating a lack of representation of perspectives in the planning process (p. 367).

A review of the provincial audits showed evidence of evaluation of four socials goals of public participation, namely: “incorporation of public values into decisions, conflict resolution among competing interests, building of trust in institutions and informing and education the public” (p. 368). However, upon review of the audit findings through the lens of the four social goals, Robson and Rosenthal found that there was limited evidence of success in these four areas.

Overall, Robson and Rosenthal concluded that audit protocol that was in place for the LCCs was ineffective in evaluating specific components that define and facilitate success. Three recommendations were made, namely:

  1. Include evaluation components within forest planning manuals.
  2. Consistently report on evaluation components.
  3. Incorporate feedback from LCC audits and public into revised Forest Management Plans (p. 369).

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