The efficacy of environmental impact assessment in Saskatchewan's forest resource sector
Rushton, Risha Jaide
Is environmental impact assessment (EIA) an effective tool for environmental management in Canada? Since its introduction in the early 1970s, EIA has emerged to be more participative, more comprehensive, and more closely monitored. However, the extent to which EIA has achieved its goal for environmental management remains unknown. The problem is that although agencies and scholars have examined the influence of individual EIA dynamics such as public participation and follow-up and monitoring, there lacks a comprehensive evaluation of the efficacy of EIA as a tool for ensuring better environmental management of development actions. In the rare instances where efficacy has been addressed studies have tended to focus on streamlining EIA systems, or minimizing the task of the proponent whose development is subject to EIA. But has this concern with procedural efficiency come at the expense of efficacy? The purpose of this thesis was to examine the efficacy of EIA as a tool for environmental management, focusing specifically on twenty-year forest management planning and assessment in Saskatchewan’s forest resource sector. Efficacy, in this context, is defined as a measure of goal attainment. Simply put, EIA may be considered effective if it contributes to better environmental management practices and outcomes. In this regard, efficacy can be interpreted based on evaluations of inputs (e.g. legal and regulatory requirements), procedural outputs (e.g. improved participation, better environmental planning, etc.), and environmental and socio-economic outcomes (e.g. better environmental management practices, improved state of the environment, sustainable development, etc.). Data were collected via document analysis of relevant forest management plans and through semi-structured interviews with government, industry and those who have a stake in Saskatchewan’s forest resource sector, or are concerned about the efficacy of EIA in Canada. Results demonstrated that EIA plays an important role in the forest management planning process, providing for greater understanding of potential effects at the ecosystem-level, facilitating public engagement, and is more apt to consider broad alternatives to proposed forest management plan (FMP) activities. However, the current approach to EIA is only loosely linked to sustainable forest management (SFM) objectives and outcomes. There is concern amongst stakeholders that requiring EIA approval of 20-year FMPs is a costly and inefficient duplication of process. A more integrative approach to EIA in the forest sector, specifically in the form of regional or strategic environmental assessment is required if EIA is to play a more effective role in ensuring SFM. The research results contribute to a larger project to advance the efficacy of EIA as an integrative tool for environmental management more broadly.
DegreeMaster of Arts (M.A.)
DepartmentGeography and Planning
SupervisorNoble, Bram F.
CommitteeReed, Maureen G.; Johnston, Mark H.; Mackasey, Pat
Copyright DateOctober 2012
Environmental impact assessment
forest management planning