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Wetland loss in Alberta: Identifying successes, barriers, and unintended outcomes of public policy Open Access


Other title
wetland compensation
balance discourse
wetland loss
bureaucratic slippage
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Clare, Shari L
Supervisor and department
Krogman, Naomi (Resource Economics and Environmental Sociology)
Foote, Lee (Renewable Resources)
Examining committee member and department
Boxal, Peter (Resource Economics and Environmental Sociology)
Bradshaw, Ben (Geography)
Hood, Glynnis (Environmental Science and Studies)
Department of Renewable Resources
Conservation Biology
Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
The province of Alberta adopted a wetland policy in 1993 to manage wetlands in the central and southern regions of the province. Despite a stated commitment to review the policy every five years, to date, no policy evaluation has been conducted. Consequently, little is known about whether wetland policy goals have been achieved and what factors influence government decision making. The aim of this research is to describe and explain the factors that have influenced wetland policy implementation and outcomes in Alberta since the inception of the wetland policy. Using a mixed-method approach, this research seeks to: 1) describe key historical events and factors that have influenced contemporary wetland management; 2) quantify compensation outcomes and evaluate outcomes relative to stated management guidelines; 3) examine existing power-relations and identify mechanisms of power that influence the development of contemporary wetland policy discourses and government decision making. Results reveal a resourcist paradigm that has dominated water policy and wetland management in Alberta since the late 1800s. This has created a legacy of federal and provincial laws and policies that consistently prioritize industrial development ahead of environmental protection. As a result, wetland impacts are rarely avoided and compensation has become a routine decision-making practice. When compensation outcomes were quantified, actual outcomes failed to achieve the standards outlined in provincial guidelines for compensation. This failure was attributed to agency capture, which appears to be driven in part by overhead governance and organizational goal ambiguity. Contemporary wetland decision making and policy development is also influenced by a privileged account that maintains wetland loss should be ‘balanced’ with economic development. This privileged account has been maintained through privileged access to key decision makers, and has created structures of knowledge that influence decisions of street-level bureaucrats. This research provides evidence for the need to give greater attention to the decision-making environment and to consider how power operates to create structures of knowledge that constrain agency decisions. Without giving greater attention to factors that influence how, why, and in whose interest policy decisions are being made, little progress can be made in producing effective, rather than symbolic, policy action.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
Citation for previous publication
Clare, S., N. Krogman, L. Foote, and N. Lemphers. 2011. Where is the avoidance in the implementation of wetland law and policy? Wetlands Ecology and Management 19:165–182

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