Community watershed management in Newfoundland and Labrador: successes, challenges, capacity-building, future directions

Holisko, Stephen (2017) Community watershed management in Newfoundland and Labrador: successes, challenges, capacity-building, future directions. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

[img] [English] PDF - Accepted Version
Available under License - The author retains copyright ownership and moral rights in this thesis. Neither the thesis nor substantial extracts from it may be printed or otherwise reproduced without the author's permission.

Download (9MB)


Out of the collapse of the commercial groundfish and salmon fisheries in Newfoundland and Labrador (NL) in 1992 and the resultant economic crisis, the provincial and federal governments implemented a new strategy for developing a highvalue recreational salmon and trout fishing industry in the province. The goals were to create local employment opportunities in rural Newfoundland, devise improved resource management strategies at the community level, and foster an overall improvement in environmental stewardship through enhanced local decision-making. The program that emerged to achieve those goals came to be known provincially as community watershed management (CWM), an approach to resource management that aimed to share significant decision-making authority and management with local/regional nongovernmental watershed groups. This new approach constituted a “rescaling” of governance, a term that describes the move from centralized modes of provincial and federal management policies, towards local and regional empowerment in the management of natural resources. Ultimately, the program did not achieve the intended level of success in the development of a recreational fishery for a number of complex reasons. The proposed changes to resource management became too politically contentious amongst stakeholders, the program failed to win support over a government bureaucracy resistant to structural changes, and the political will required to implement such an ambitious program faltered. While the provincial government’s commitment to rescale environmental resource management and governance to the watershed level ultimately did not hold, there continued, and remains, a lasting grassroots movement across the province at the community level in the form of continuing watershed management organizations. This thesis fulfills two important inquiries: 1) to provide a historical overview of CWM and related recreational fisheries development policies in NL, and 2) to analyze the experiences of the organizations themselves, through the voices of their past and current members, as well as stakeholders in community, government, industry, and academia. The central argument of this paper is that implementation of rescaled environmental governance and management failed in NL due to a lack of secure funding and agreed upon longer term policy commitments, entrenched public opposition from a vocal minority based on fears of privatization of public resources, and lack of institutional readiness, both on the part of the provincial bureaucracy and the watershed organizations themselves. The result is that watershed organizations in NL have largely been left to forge their own direction. Critical to the success of this endeavor is remaining adaptive in nature, and integrative in approach while tackling the highly complex issues surrounding environmental management. It is my hope that these insights may assist in future capacity-building efforts for governments and community-based stewardship organizations that are attempting to implement holistic, collaborative, and multi-level environmental management in NL and elsewhere. This insight has been achieved through document review and by conducting in-depth interviews with key informants engaged in community watershed groups throughout the province. The interviews have been analyzed using Mitchell’s (2009) four contributing factors to policy implementation gaps combined with Robins’ (2007) multiple-capitals model for assessing and building capacity. This analytical framework allows for a critique of the strengths, challenges, and short-comings of small-scale, community-based watershed groups, an area of research that is weakly developed in academic literature. Significant institutional, social, and environmental learning that has occurred in these organizations and been captured through this research provides us with the building blocks for better future outcomes in community-based environmental stewardship practiced through local and multi-level decision-making and inclusive governance.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Item ID: 13129
Keywords: Community Watershed Management, Integrated Watershed Management, Multi-stakeholder engagement, Community-based resource management, Governance
Department(s): Grenfell Campus > School of Science and the Environment > Environmental Policy Institute
Date: July 2017
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Watershed management -- Newfoundland and Labrador; Community-based conservation -- Newfoundland and Labrador

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over the past year

View more statistics