The World Bank/WBI’s CBNRM Initiative

Case Received: February 7, 1998

Authors: Stephen Hawboldt and Jim Ellsworth


The Evolution of Government/Community Partnerships for Resource Management in Atlantic Canada

A Case Study of a Work in Progress:

The Clean Annapolis River Project and The Atlantic Coastal Action Program

Identification of the Case

The Atlantic Coastal Action Program (ACAP) operates within Canada’s eastern provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland. The program was launched in response to deteriorating environmental quality and its social and economic impact; diminishing resources and the move toward knowledge based economies; increasing user conflict; a growing public demand to participate in decision making and resource management and a collective realization that the issues facing the region were beyond the capacity of any single sector or level of government. Collectively, the 13 ACAP community-based initiatives in four provinces deal with a full range of spectrum of environmental and natural resource issues. Pre-dating ACAP, the Clean Annapolis River Project (CARP) was the first community organization invited to participate in this innovative development of new forms of governance.

Within Atlantic Canada, the focus of CARP is on the Annapolis River watershed located in the Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia, Canada. The watershed is approximately 50 kilometres wide and 150 kilometres long and includes the Annapolis Basin, the outlet to the Bay of Fundy. While initially the emphasis was on issues related to the quality and use of water resources, attention is now directed to also include both terrestrial and atmospheric concerns.

Contextually, the case study will review multi-stakeholder processes that involves all residents in determining the environmental future for their communities and finding ways to achieve the desired goals. It will look at the emerging relationships among all orders of governments, industry, citizens, First Nations, and resource users.

Stephen Hawboldt has been Program Director of the Clean Annapolis River Project (CARP) since the group was formed in 1990. CARP, a charitable non-governmental organization created to work with residents and communities for the sustainable use of the regions resources, has received regional, national and international attention for its successes. Most recently, CARP received the 1996 Canada Healthy Environment Award, the highest honour in Canada.

Jim Ellsworth became manager of Environment Canada’s Atlantic Coastal Action Program in 1992. Duties included leading a multi-disciplinary team dedicated to serving and assisting community-based resource management initiatives, coordinating Environment Canada’s participation and support, and introducing the institutional changes necessary for the department to "walk the talk" of community resource management.

The Initial Situation

Traditionally, institutions had little choice but to take a reductionist approach and divide issues in keeping with their respective mandates, responsibilities and disciplines. Depending on the issue, any of three levels of government, any of many government departments and any of numerous departmental/scientific disciplines and/or programs would assume responsibility. Institutions were naturally reluctant to take responsibility or assume accountability for issues which did not fall nicely within their mandates. Depending on their interests and perspectives, citizens tended to see and label issues as social, economic or environmental. As a result, complex, multi-jurisdictional issues were left to fester, communities were denied ownership of issues and their solution, and anyone attempting to resolve the issues were forced to navigate a maze of jurisdictions.

Without a framework and a process for shared accountability and responsibility, complex issues including non-point source pollution and cumulative effects would remain unresolved. Even if they avoided the issues, citizens and governments could not avoid dealing with the symptoms and impacts. Treating the symptoms is consuming resources that could be better spent on root causes and/or preventative measures. ACAP was launched to introduce a new community-based form of governance and the innovations necessary to address the sustainability challenge.

It was against this traditional institutional framework, that the residents of the Annapolis watershed were faced with declining quality of the resources that sustained the region's economic base. Where central services existed, the sewage treatment plants provided inadequate treatment. In the un-serviced areas, on-site sewage treatment facilities were poorly operating or nonexistent. Waterways were degraded by siltation from forestry, agriculture and suburban development. The entire economic fabric of the region was being undermined.

Because it was apparent that the issues were too broad-based involving divergent interests, concerned residents came to the conclusion that they must take a pro-action stance. That opinion led to the creation of CARP and indirectly to the initiation of ACAP.

The Change Process

This evolving process can be viewed from several perspectives: the change in some government agencies to facilitate a participatory partnership among all stakeholders as equals: the change in community groups, industry, and resource users to embrace and build on these evolving partnerships and the willingness and capacity of these often divergent interests to expand the partnerships to an ever widening circle of participants. The change process was initiated when very different, unrelated, interests converged.

In the late 1980's, a regional board of trade made application to the Canada Heritage River program to have the Annapolis River designated as the first heritage river in Canada. Prior to European settlement in 1605, the resources of the region had supported a rich Mi'kmaq culture. The rejection of this application, due to the environmental degradation that had been created after nearly 400 years of European settlement, led the regional board of trade to sponsor several public workshops to investigate remedial options. The result was enhanced local awareness of the environmental challenges facing all residents of the watershed.

Also in the late 1980's, university and government researchers expressed concern about declining water quality in Atlantic Canada. They felt that community based approaches, involving all stakeholders, was the best option to address these distresses. This informal alliance of scientists, the Atlantic Estuaries Cooperative Venture (AECV), sought sites in which they might spark community responses. They choose the Annapolis due to the high level of public awareness arising from the rejected heritage river status. CARP resulted when these interests combined.

These divergent interests combined with other concerns in 1991 to form ACAP, an Atlantic region manifestation of Canada's Green Plan. The experience of CARP/AECV and other community based experiments, played a key role in the development of ACAP. The early growing pains of ACAP were at times testy. After considerable discussion, CARP was the first organization invited to participate in ACAP. The initiative was still a government controlled process in which the participants were expected/required to accept the traditional notion of command and control by the central governmental agency tempered by traditional community input.

To Environment Canada and other institutions, ACAP demonstrated the need to change in order to bring about new partnerships. The dynamics within the ACAP process left no participant unchanged. Environment Canada’s role changed from that of conveyor, to facilitator and finally to participant. With initiatives like CARP gaining capacity and demonstrating a license to lead from citizens, the private sector and all three levels of government, Environment Canada had the good sense to get out of the way and accommodate community-based leadership. The initiatives and participants continue to change as all gain knowledge, discover interdependencies and learn to work across boundaries of time, space and interest of each other.

To Environment Canada, the term community-based does not just refer to place. Community-based now refers to place centred governance initiatives where citizens, all levels of government and the private sector; social, economic and environmental interests; and local, regional and national perspectives come together. The result is redefinition of community, involving all stakeholders, and facilitates shared responsibility for issues and their solution. While other definitions reduce citizens and communities to participants in government programs, ACAP requires community members to empower one another by collaborating as equals.

The early months were often tense for both CARP and the ACAP managers, neither wished to give up their respective realms of ownership. Over time, trust and mutual respect increased allowing each to develop a new relationship that respected the political/institutional opportunities and boundaries that the partners required. All have come to realize that the focus must widen to include other federal agencies, as well as, other orders of government and expanded stakeholders participation. This is the challenge for the future as ACAP and CARP continue to evolve.

This evolutionary process cannot be attributed to particular individuals. Its success is built on weaving the interests of the diverse partners into new forms of governance. With declining environmental quality and reduced economic options, participants begin to see a shared future that benefits their self-interest. Scientists, farmers, artisans, homemakers, fishers, environmentalists and dozens of other points of view have learned how their counterparts view their separate worlds and that cooperative action is essential.

The Outcome

While still a work in progress, CARP and the other ACAP sites have many notable environmental, social and economic achievements to their credit. Their focus has evolved from activities, to project outcomes that achieve explicit and measurable ecosystem objectives. Like other participants and supporters, Environment Canada is proud to be affiliated with the ACAP sites and their achievements. All participants are particularly pleased with accomplishments in the areas water quality, habitat restoration, environmental conservation, pollution prevention, eco-efficiency and biodiversity. Each has made many direct and indirect contributions to sustainable livelihoods. Equally important, citizens and organizations not part of the traditional power base, they create and share the outcomes.

Institutional changes have been both diverse and profound. Environment Canada has learned to differentiate between community-based initiatives and community participation in government programs. The process has empowered governmental representatives in community-based initiatives to represent all department branches and programs and granted them financial authority to commit project funding. All participants have a waiting list of citizens and scientists seeking to work with these innovations. Initiatives like CARP are now seen as an opportunity to participate, not manage. Environment Canada has learned how to support a full range of community-based activities including knowledge generation, capacity building and actions to address a diversity of issues. Nationally, the department has changed our policy regarding ecosystem initiatives to accommodate community-based approaches.

CARP, along with the other 12 ACAP sites, is involved in the policy development within Environment Canada. The groups participate in quarterly conference calls during which budgetary allocations and policy decisions are jointly made. Having changed the way of doing business, Environment Canada, Atlantic Region is now actively recruiting the participation of other federal and provincial agencies. All groups have been represented at national and international resource management policy development processes.

CARP has developed working partnerships with most other stakeholders. The group has negotiated a letter of agreement with the provincial Department of the Environment. This is an enabling document to facilitate the exchange of human and financial resources. A very wide range of academic and research expertise is available to CARP from the institutions in the region and at the national and international levels. Directly and indirectly, CARP receives support from most federal, provincial and municipal governments, numerous corporations, international agencies, other environmental groups, First Nations, foundations and dozens of individuals. Other national governments have even participated.

CARP has been involved in numerous on-the-job training programs that have enhanced the skills of young people. Many of these individuals have built on their experiences and been able to launch careers in the environmental field. These participants have included all socio-economic groups.

Through its various programs, such as volunteer water quality monitoring, CARP has afforded residents the opportunity to teach themselves the connection between human activities and environmental quality. They have learned scientific methods and the requirement for reproducible data. This participation has resulted in an enhanced sense of stewardship of the region's environmental resources. Senior research scientists are now seeking the input of CARP and the other 12 ACAP sites.

CARP sees itself as part of an international movement toward community based resource management. The group participates in several international initiatives, most notably, the Gulf of Maine Coastal Monitoring Network that links American and Canadian community groups around the Bay of Fundy/Gulf of Maine. Over the past few years, CARP has hosted visits by environmental managers from around the world. As well, the group has been an invited participant in many international resource management programs.

Due to community efforts, environmental conditions have improved in the Annapolis watershed. Several hectares of salt and fresh water marsh are protected by conservation agreements or donation to CARP. Atlantic salmon are once again spawning in streams that have been restored. Wetlands to process agricultural waste have been constructed. Environmental farm management plans are being adopted. Hedgerows and riparian zones have been replanted. Water conservation and waste water management programs have resulted reduced sewage discharges. Habitat for waterfowl and other bird species has been enhanced. Local businesses have reduced their waste stream through pollution prevention and waste reduction programs. There is now a high level of community awareness of local environmental conditions. A widely endorsed comprehensive environment management plan for the watershed has been prepared to guide enhancement activities in the watershed.

The Lessons Learned

Likely the most important lesson learned from the experiences of ACAP and CARP is that the process works as is evidenced by improved environmental conditions and the participation of all stakeholders. Other, more specific lessons have also been gained by this process.

The government-community partnership is an highly efficient mechanism for the delivery of resource management programs. For every $1 invested by ACAP in CARP, another $15 of real and in-kind resources have been contributed by the other partners.

The initiatives benefit by being holistic at both the institutional and ecological levels. On the institutional plane, this means an inclusive process that openly welcomes the participation of all stakeholders. From an ecological perspective, this means viewing the entire watershed as a single integrated and interdependent whole. It requires the incorporation of traditional knowledge with scientific research.

Each has learned that principle-centred approaches to conflict resolution and conflict avoidance used by community-based initiatives are transferable. Best processes prevail and quickly spread and quickly spread to participating organization including government departments. While all community based initiatives are distinct, successful initiatives share common qualities. They are inclusive, open, transparent and champions of informed decision making. They combine people and resources in combinations that generate creativity and innovations. They develop solutions that are economically feasible, socially acceptable and environmentally sound. They align the efforts of public and private land owners, citizens, industry, governments, First Nations, universities and others in short medium and long term actions.

In varying manifestations, multi-stakeholder community based resource management is spreading throughout the world. The authors are familiar with similar initiatives in other parts of Canada, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Peru, and the United States. While the details may vary due to unique cultural circumstances, many of these initiatives revolve around citizens defining and implementing the ecological and economic options they have chosen for their future.

One thing unique about ACAP is the collaboration and collective capacity of participating community-based initiatives. Sites collaborate in addressing larger scale issues, answering larger scale science questions and serve as a resource to one another. Their network enables them to share information, best practices, lessons learned and speak with a common voice when necessary. As honest brokers, these initiatives are able to harness and focus a diversity of resources and lever the pubic and political support necessary to address complex issues. While community-based initiatives have exceeded the expectations, we all know the best is yet to come. We are just beginning to recognize and accommodate the distinct needs, capacities, and behaviour patterns of different community-based resource management initiatives.

Selected Bibliography

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Clean Annapolis River Project; Introduction to the Clean Annapolis River Project; Clean Annapolis River Project, Annapolis Royal, 1993.

Daborn, Graham R. and Hawboldt, Stephen, Incorporating Volunteers in Support of Monitoring and Research on Coastal Zone Problem, Conference Proceedings: Coastal Zone Canada '94, Coastal Zone Canada Association, Halifax, 1994.

Donaldson, Carole, An Unholy Alliance: Working With Coastal Communities. A Practitioner's Perspective, Conference Proceedings: Coastal Zone Canada '94, Coastal Zone Canada Association, Halifax, 1994.

Donaldson, Carole, Working in Multistakeholder Processes, Environment Canada, Dartmouth, 1994.

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