Article

Policy Sciences

, Volume 39, Issue 2, pp 183-202

De-centering environmental governance: A short history and analysis of democratic processes in the forest sector of Alberta, Canada

  • John R. ParkinsAffiliated withSocial Science Research Group, Canadian Forest Service

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Abstract

This paper describes the emergence of a de-centered and privatized mode of governance in the Canadian forest sector. Using deliberative democratic theory as a descriptive foundation, it explores two key social facts that are arguably central to any historical analysis of this trend. First, increasing cultural pluralism challenges contemporary society to create new institutional arrangements that can incorporate a much larger, and often contested, array of public values into decision-making processes. Second, as management systems become more complex and science-driven, decision makers are finding it increasingly difficult to resolve issues of uncertainty and conflicting scientific evidence. De-centered forms of public participation provide important opportunities for government and industry to overcome these contemporary challenges, but certain side effects are also apparent. From the steering tactics of sponsoring agencies and corporations to the “ghettoizing” of environmental discourses, several implications are discussed.

Keywords

Environmental governance Deliberative democracy Public participation Small groups Public sphere Forest policy