Resource Management | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Resource Management

Resource management usually refers to the responsibility of governments to ensure that natural resources under their jurisdiction are used wisely or conserved.

Resource Management

Resource management usually refers to the responsibility of governments to ensure that natural resources under their jurisdiction are used wisely or conserved. "Wise use" excludes unnecessary waste and, in the case of renewable resources, implies that their use will be constrained to provide a sustained use in the future. Where the use of a resource conflicts with other natural resources, eg, where FORESTRY operations interfere with the spawning of salmon, sound resource management implies that policies will recognize the desirability of multiple uses and place restraints on single purpose uses that are detrimental to other resource values. Sometimes governments decide to preserve natural resources from all consumptive uses. Ecological reserves maintaining lands indefinitely in their natural state are one method of preserving such resources.

The use of a natural resource often raises conflicts among individuals and groups with special interests in the resource. Conflicts may arise among industrial users of FORESTS, MINERALS and FISH; the recreation industry, which depends on lakes, streams and forests; and naturalists who advocate wilderness preservation and conservation of wildlife. Such clashes may occur at levels ranging from the broad scale (industry versus wilderness) to conflicts between industries (dams versus forestry), between recreation users (snowmobilers versus hikers) or between naturalists and their objects of study (eg, when too much disturbance interferes with nesting). Aboriginal peoples whose rights have not yet been recognized claim natural- RESOURCE RIGHTS based on their historic relationship with the land.

These conflicts and others require careful management strategies by governments. In Canada government ownership of natural resources provides the foundation for management strategies and policies. The 4 original provinces in Confederation retained ownership and control of their natural resources. British Columbia and Prince Edward Island also retained ownership of natural resources on joining the union. When Manitoba, Alberta and Saskatchewan were formed, natural-resource ownership was retained by the federal government, in part to provide revenues to support colonization and the construction of the transcontinental railway. In 1930 a constitutional amendment transferred ownership and control of what remained of the publicly-owned natural resources from the federal government to the Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba governments. Hence, in Canada publicly-owned natural resources now belong to the provinces, although jurisdiction over migratory birds and fish is largely federal. In the NORTH, the natural resources in the Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut remain under the control of the federal government. Conflicting claims of the federal and provincial governments to resources in the offshore regions have been settled in favour of the federal government by a March 1984 decision of the Supreme Court of Canada. In many regions of Canada, both onshore and offshore, Aboriginal peoples have unsettled LAND CLAIMS.

In the earlier years provincial governments followed policies that permitted outright alienation of farm and urban lands and even of forest and wildlands. More recently, particularly in western Canada and the North, government policy has been to grant only limited tenures of forest and mineral lands. Thus, governments function as landlords of forestry and oil companies and, to a lesser extent, of mining companies. Consequently, provincial and federal natural-resource management in these cases is dual in nature; a government acts as an owner/landlord and as a regulator of resource use.

As owner/landlord, a provincial government may become a joint developer with industry. In this capacity, the government's management policies may be to stimulate investment and jobs (as in the northeastern coal development in BC), to maximize rents and royalties (eg, of publicly owned oil and natural gas resources), to maintain a sustained yield (eg, in forests and FISHERIES) or to influence the structure of industry participation (eg, the "Canadianization" of the PETROLEUM INDUSTRY).

As regulator, a government controls natural-RESOURCE USE through statutes authorizing resource management by various departments, branches and agencies. In Canada constitutional powers are divided between the national and provincial governments by the CONSTITUTION ACT, 1982. Provincial legislatures are authorized to enact laws for the management and sale of natural resources and for the regulation of primary production; the Parliament of Canada is given legislative power to regulate coastal and inland fisheries and interprovincial and export trade in natural-resource commodities. Each level of government may tax natural-resource revenues. Consequently, while a province may adopt and enforce resource management policies, these policies must be consistent with national policies adopted by Parliament. These overlapping powers and responsibilities lead to conflicts between the provincial and national governments over such matters as markets, pricing and sharing of natural-resource revenues, and may sometimes hamper broad-scale management. Intergovernmental conflicts are further complicated in urban areas, where municipal governments may own the land. In the past, natural-resource statutes created a variety of single resource management entities, designating a separate department or branch for each individual resource, eg, the federal fisheries department, a provincial mines and minerals department, a provincial forest service or a provincial wildlife branch. Government departments in the natural-resources sector now usually have broader mandates and require policies that recognize the multiple demands on resources. Integrating strategies such as regional resource planning and multiple-use task forces are used more frequently in an effort to accomplish more co-ordinated resource management, and ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ASSESSMENTS and public hearings on resource uses and projects are now common.

These trends in government are largely a consequence of the emergence of professional natural-resource planners and managers. With specific education and training in natural-resource management programs, these professionals are widely employed in industry, government and consulting firms. New statutory requirements for formal assessment and review of development projects that may impose adverse impacts on the ENVIRONMENT contribute to a climate in which wise natural-resource use is no longer taken for granted. Concerns about the finite nature of resources, about the possibility of irreversible harm to the environment and about gaining economic efficiency and optimum benefit from the use of resources will place ever higher demands upon these professionals.

While much attention has been paid to multiple-use and social cost/benefit questions, much more could be accomplished if certain inherent features of natural-resources management are recognized and if research strategies can be more specifically directed to management priorities. Resource management is now characterized by high degrees of uncertainty about causes and effects, about mitigative measures and about the costs and benefits of different means of resolving resource use conflicts. For example, ACID RAIN is widely recognized as a major threat to the global environment, but great difficulty was experienced in getting experts and political leaders to agree on mitigative and remedial programs, even between neighbouring countries like Canada and the US. These uncertainties call for research priorities that focus on key unknowns, and management strategies that are designed to provide more adaptive and flexible means of coping with the future. The importance of natural resources in the economy and life of Canadians is so great that better resource management practices should be a matter of national priority.


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