“Messes and wicked problems seem to describe much of the forestry debate” (Shindler, 1999). To whether continue logging and prosper the economics of the region or to stop logging and prevent further environmental damages is the usual conflict. Algonquin Provincial situated in central Ontario, Canada faces such debates. Out of 339 parks in Ontario, Algonquin is the only one is the only one that allows commercial logging in 65% of its area (Wilson, 2014). However, in recent years there has been discussion of decreasing this percentage (OPB & AFA, 2009). But logging of Algonquin Park remains a wicked problem. In their book, Balint et al. define ‘wicked problems’ as problems in which “scientific uncertainty coexists with value uncertainty and conflict” (2012, p.9). According to this definition, logging of Algonquin Park is a ‘wicked problem’ since there are differences in values of the forest industry and environmental organizations as well as conflicting findings in various scientific studies. “Strategies for dealing with messes may be relatively straightforward when values are shared; however, wicked problems require a re-examination of management approaches that may push resource professionals beyond traditional problem-solving strategies and even beyond their personal comfort zones” (Shindler, 1999). Management of forests, like any other resource management, should be examined on different scales. In this paper, I will examine forest management and specifically management of Algonquin Park on 5 different scales of Global, Federal, provincial, local and non-statutory and identify main stakeholders of each level. I will then further analyze the governance practices using three factors of transparency, participation and accountability in addition to clearly indicating the gaps and failures in the system.

First, to better understand the problems with forest management, changes in social values should be discussed. After the World War II, industrial nations entered a new stage of socioeconomics referred to as “postindustrial” (Shindler, 1999). It has been argued that “postindustrial” societies have changed individual values structures of citizens (Shindler, 1999). Shifting value orientations have resulted in two different management paradigms concerning natural resources: 1) “Dominant Resource Management Paradigm”, which advocates a management system directed towards production beneficial to humans, and 2) the postmodern “ New Resource Management Paradigm”, which reflects a more biocentric view and a environmentally friendly way of thinking (Shindler, 1999). This change in views has been seen in the US, Canada and in other postindustrial nations all over the world (Shindler, 1999). In the states, it has been studied that a number of socioeconomic factors have been identified with the “New Resource Management Paradigm” (Shindler, 1999). This shift in values has turned forest management into a wicked problem today and the appropriate governance is a controversial topic.

Not all stakeholders of forest management agree on the same governance methods. Forests are managed on different scales. First of all there are international agreements that need to be followed, since actions of one nation could influence the planet as a whole. According to the Natural Resources Canada website, Canada adopted five international agreement that were directly or indirectly related to biodiversity and logging of forests. First, is Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, in which it is stated “the environment and natural resources of people under oppression, domination and occupation shall be protected” (UNEP, 1992). Although this agreement covers a broad range of environmental practices and it’s not specific to forests, it indirectly affects forestry practices. Second, Agenda 21 is a plan adopted by United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in 1992. For instance, one chapter of this plan calls for combatting deforestation (NRCAN, 2015). Third is Convention of Biological Diversity and it focuses on biodiversity in the environment (NRCAN, 2015). The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is the fourth agreement. UNFCCC’s main goal is to prevent irreversible human interferences with the climate system and conserving forest biodiversity is a part of it. The last agreement is Forest Principles, again, by United Nations. This agreement is more directly related to forest management. Although this agreement allows exploitation of forests, it demands a sustainable way of doing it (UN General Assembly, 1992).

Next scale of governance is the country itself, Canada. Canada has three levels of government: federal, provincial and municipal (local), all of which play a role in forest governance and as a consequence in Algonquin Provincial Park. These three levels work together to produce proposals. For example, in the Joint Proposal for Lightening the Ecological Footprint of Logging in Algonquin Park this collaboration of levels of government are seen (OPB & AFA, 2009). The main federal stakeholder, Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR), watches over operations of others and holds the most power. The proposal is submitted to and approved by MNR in the end; however, other stakeholders do most of the work. At the provincial level, there’s Ontario Parks Board (OPB), which worked closely with the local level government Algonquin Forestry Authority (AFA) in this particular proposal (OPB & AFA, 2009).

In the process of proposals, the decision makers consult main non-statutory (informal) stakeholders as well. Among these is the forest industry, which is influenced the most with decisions of the government. For example, in this case, if the proposal to increase protected areas from logging gets approved, forest industry mills will be greatly affected (OPB & AFA, 2009). Some Mills have accepted and some are still hesitant about the proposal. In contrast, environmental organizations want the operations to proceed as soon as possible. After the proposal turned into Forest Management Plan (FMP), other local stakeholders were consulted as well. The Local Citizen’s Committee (LCC) included participation of local Algonquin peoples and provided very useful insights (FMP, 2010). According to FMP, a public consultation was also scheduled for spring of 2010.

These different types of consultation show participation. Participation is a crucial part of standard governance. The shift in values that I discussed earlier, have caused an increase in public consultation and participation (Shindler, 1999). Participation makes government practices more transparent. Transparency is the openness of the institution in disclosing information. Public officials have the duty to make information accessible to public to promote participation. This information must be relevant and timely (Transparency International, 2009). In the case of Algonquin Park proposal, the proposal and plan is easily accessed online and are both relevant and timely since they were posted as soon as possible and clearly indicated the schedule for public consultations. Although governance of this issue is both participatory and transparent, it is not clear if it’s accountable. The management plan for this particular case is fully executed by 2020 (FMP, 2010) and we have to be patient to find out whether the decision makers are trustworthy and can be counted on. It is worth noting that management, in this case, is shifting to “New Resource Management Paradigm” and according to Shindler, “These shifts include changes in public confidence, including a loss of confidence in federal land management agencies to allocate resources and provide effective leadership” (2009).

In conclusion, decision making for the case of logging in Algonquin Provincial Park is done by collaboration of different scales of government. Federal, provincial and local governments in addition to non-statutory institutions all contribute more or less in governance while taking into considerations international agreements. The governance practices of all these levels as a whole includes portions of participation and transparency. However, it seems that Algonquin peoples are not consulted and listed to as much as they should be as residents of the area. Additionally, while some components of the plans and proposals are transparent, the whole process has not reached a high level of transparency. Moreover, it is not clear whether this system is accountable. The projects of the past can’t be considered to prove accountability since the shift in value also lowers trust. Overall, this governance framework doesn’t yet fully meet standards but it’s headed in the right direction.



Balint, P. J., Stewart, R. E., Desal, A. & Walters, L. C. (2012). Wicked Environmental Problems: Managing uncertainty and Conflict. Retrieved from:

Natural Resources Canada. (2015). Retrieved

Ontario Parks Board of Directors & Algonquin Forestry Authority Board of Directors. (2009, September 15). Joint Proposal for Lightening the Ecological Footprint of Logging in Algonquin Park. Retrieved from:

Shindler, B. and Cramer, L.A. 1999. Shifting public values for forest management: making sense of wicked problemsWestern Journal of Applied Forestry14(1): 28-34.

Summary of the 2010-2020 Forest Management Plan for the Algonquin Park Forest. Retrieved

Transparency International. (2009). Retrieved

United Nations Environment Programme. (1992). Retrieved

United Nations General Assembly. (1992). Retrieved

Wilson, H. (2014, December 3). Environmental commissioner decries in Algonquin.Canadian Geographic. Retrieved from:


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *