Environmental Governance

Environmental Governance for Sustainability and Resilience: Innovations in Canadian Biosphere Reserves and Model Forests

Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (completed)
With Drs. Bob Gibson and George Francis, University of WaterlooKej

Canada's biosphere reserves and model forests have been advanced as practical, flexible, and innovative mechanisms for environmental governance at the landscape scale by establishing partnerships with a wide range of stakeholders who work collaboratively to define priorities, goals, and actions for sustainability. Yet, we have not systematically learned from them to determine how these governance models operate in practice, what factors contribute to and inhibit effective environmental governance at the landscape level, what practices foster resilience in the face of changing environmental and socioeconomic circumstances, and how we can animate the positive elements to promote good governance within and beyond biosphere reserves and model forests.

The overall purpose of the proposed research is two-fold: (a) to assess the efficacy of the governance arrangements in Canadian model forests and biosphere reserves to advance sustainability, resilience, and social innovation at the landscape scale; and (b) to contribute to national and international understanding of environmental governance during times of rapid and uncertain biophysical and socio-economic change. We pose the questions: "What are the characteristics of environmental governance established in Canadian biosphere reserves and model forests that foster or hinder sustainability, resilience, and social innovation? How can the positive characteristics be fostered across other landscape-scale initiatives in Canada and internationally?"

Through case studies and comparative analysis, our study seeks to:

  • establish criteria and indicators to assess the characteristics of environmental governance systems that advance sustainability, resilience, and innovation at the landscape scale;
  • document the basic biophysical, socio-economic, and cultural characteristics of each locality, including landscape classification, types of land use, and key stakeholders and their interests in the landscape and local economy, with particular attention to characteristics that are valued and are undesirable for long-term well-being;
  • identify policies or programs that take steps towards a vision for the resilience and sustainability of the region for present and future generations;
  • assess how natural, social, and economic capital assets, formal and informal institutional arrangements, other resources, and specific social-ecological practices and projects in each location might enhance or restrict resilience and associated adaptive management capacity, so as to strengthen or inhibit effective environmental governance at the landscape scale;
  • share innovative concepts, collaborative processes, and/or special techniques used by particular model forests or biosphere reserves with other landscape scale management initiatives, and consider their suitability for wider application across Canada and internationally.

Discussion Papers

Discussion Paper and Workshop Report:




Prof. M.G. Reed • School of Environment and Sustainability and Department of Geography and Planning • University of Saskatchewan • Room 328, Kirk Hall • 117 Science Place • Saskatoon, SK • Canada • S7N 5C8 • Email • Phone: (306) 966-5630 • Fax: (306) 966-2298