Ecology and Society (Dec 2015)

Public forest policy development in New Brunswick, Canada: multiple streams approach, advocacy coalition framework, and the role of science

  • William F. A. Anderson,
  • David A. MacLean

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 20, no. 4
p. 20


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In a 15-year case study, we used the multiple streams approach (MSA) and the advocacy coalition framework (ACF) to examine a controversial industry-led proposal for increased harvest of Crown forests in New Brunswick, Canada, in an adversarial policy subsystem. Study participants were queried on their perceptions of policy problems and reasons for community attention, the relationship between science and policy, and whether policy decisions were consistent with scientific understanding. Thematic analysis was used to examine interview data for evidence of Kingdon's MSA and Sabatier's ACF. During public hearings of a Legislative Select Committee on Wood Supply, two competing policy alternatives emerged. The first, put forward by the forest industry coalition, advocated an intensive forest management approach in support of a competitive industry. The second, supported by the conservation coalition, largely made up of scientists and environmental groups, focused on adaptive management, an ecosystem approach, and greater public input. This counterproposal forestalled the industry from placing its proposal on the government 2005 decision agenda. However, in 2014, the government unexpectedly adopted essentially the same industry proposal. Although the MSA provided a better explanation of the factors critical to the 2014 policy change, i.e., a declining provincial economy and a change of key government personnel, the ACF offered a nuanced perspective on the need for a professional forum to facilitate policy-oriented learning across competing coalitions. In 2014, the lack of such a forum and a closed process limited policy alternatives considered by elected officials. Results also emphasize the importance of how legislators choose to interact with experts and scientists, particularly within an adversarial subsystem, especially when a powerful coalition develops ways to limit the access to decision makers by competing coalitions.