ADAPTIVE MANAGEMENT: What Is It?

by Sky Jarvis

Sky Jarvis is part of a team of CPCIL Research and Knowledge Gatherers producing content and compiling resources on themes such as inclusion, ecosocial justice, partnerships, conservation, organizational sustainability, climate change and biodiversity, connection to nature, conservation financing, and ecotourism, to support effective and equitable leadership and inclusion in parks and protected areas across Canada.

Adap·​tive (adjective): arising as the result of adaptation

Ad·​ap·​ta·​tion (noun): the process of changing to fit some purpose or situation; the process of adapting

https://sustainablymotivated.com/2019/02/01/climate-action-now-greta-thunberg/

#FridaysForFuture

There is an inherent need for urgency when dealing with the challenges facing my generation namely the biodiversity crisis, the climate crisis, plastic pollution, and extreme poverty. Right now, British Columbia is an example for the rest of  Canada on the far-reaching impacts which climate change and seemingly more frequent weather events have on parks and societies from never-before-seen wildfire seasons to atmospheric rivers and polar vortexes. The impacts of climate change are staring residents right in the face: from declining pacific salmon numbers to the heatwaves, fires, and landslides. And who else can forget, the global COVID-19 pandemic? The leaders of today don’t only need to come up with new and creative solutions to these complex and wicked problems, but they also need to start implementing actions and approaches to mitigate the potential negative effects of these complex socio-ecological dilemmas.

Salafsky and Margoulis (1998; 2003) have defined adaptive management as an approach where managers can systematically test assumptions and take the knowledge gained from this experimental process to adapt future designs and management actions based on the information gained through monitoring to guide learning. This may be very beneficial when considering field conservation which is situated within a complex socio-ecological system (Figure 1) containing many different interactions, feedback loops, and tipping points; all of which occur across an array of different spatial and temporal scales. Adaptive management frameworks can assist with creating a flexible approach to dealing with the complex environmental problems seen today.

Image from Virapongse et al. 2016: Depiction of an SES (adapted from SNRE, University of Florida, (2015)).

Figure 1: Multidisciplinary approaches that integrate social and ecological sciences could be one such way to address some of the pressing environmental issues faced by today’s generations (Virapongse et al. 2016). Socio-Ecological systems are a product of human economies, culture, and policies as well as larger-scale biogeochemical processes which have shaped not only Earth’s physical environment but also the evolution of species for billions of years.

The World is Changing - So Must We

For much of the past 100-200 years, dominant worldviews have considered natural resources to be limitless, the bounty of the new world. However, 200 years of utilitarian management paradigms, coupled with overexploitation, have finally begun to reveal the scarcity of many of these resources. The need to sustainably manage resources such as biodiversity, old-growth forests, clean air, and fresh water has become more apparent than ever. This desire for sustainable management which not only provides for today’s society but also for future generations and the needs of other species has led to increasing conflict and social pressures for politicians and practitioners. New theoretical perspectives and approaches are now starting to view ecosystems as complex and highly dynamic systems and have begun to acknowledge that we may have to start shifting towards more holistic and flexible management tactics (Virapongse et al. 2016).

There may be inherent risks when implementing management actions without a full comprehension of the system and how it may react. However, this uncertainty shouldn’t be a reason not to implement actions when we know that something must be done. We need to act now, and adaptive management frameworks (Figure 2) may provide one way for resource managers, park leaders, and decision-makers to proceed with taking actions in the face of complexity and uncertainty. Through the experimental implementation of an array of alternative approaches, each with its own consequences and potential effects, we can begin to build knowledge of the system, its components, and its behavior. At first, we may not truly understand how the system may respond, but hopefully over time and with monitoring and re-evaluation resource managers can reassess their assumptions and incorporate local knowledge sources to develop site-specific approaches that are reflective of the uniqueness of that system and the human communities who interact and rely on it.

Figures sourced from Salafsky & Margoulis (2003). (Click figures to enlarge)

Figure 2: The adaptive management framework can be broken down into 5 basic steps where resource managers, stakeholders, and decision-makers can work together to design, develop, and implement experimental approaches to addressing social and environmental issues (Salafsky & Margoulis, 2003). This is a cycle, so iteration is part of the process- if at first you don’t succeed take that information, make some changes and try again.

Holistic and Flexible Approaches may be Better Suited for Adaptation

Although project design, management, and monitoring are high-cost activities it is believed that current investments can save resources in the future through increased effectiveness of projects (Salafsky and Margoulis, 1998). It has recently been thought that inadequate monitoring and evaluation is one of the main challenges associated with adaptive management of complex systems and that it’s a hindrance to the successful implementation of this type of approach (Waylen et al. 2019). According to Virapongse et al. (2016), robust and clearly defined monitoring plans can address other known challenges to adaptive management, such as the need to manage at broader landscape-level scales, accommodating abrupt changes/shocks, and addressing empirical data needs. I personally also feel that another main hindrance is the lack of including the perspectives and values of local and indigenous communities within the design phase. Local communities should be consulted before a main objective and goal are established so that their values are considered and hopefully reflected in the project before different alternatives are selected for implementation. This may help with public acceptance and support of the project as important stakeholders. Furthermore, local peoples have invaluable sources of knowledge about the system with which they and their ancestors have interacted with for generations and can assist with evaluation as different approaches are implemented. One example of how local and indigenous communities have been engaged within park planning and resource management can be seen in the Land-Sea-People Plan for Gwaii Haanas National Park, where Indigenous knowledge systems and Haida Laws have been acknowledged and incorporated with scientific principles (Figure 3) to generate a zoning plan that attempts to accommodate recreation, economic, and cultural land-uses.

 

Table sourced from: Parks Canada; Gwaii Haanas (Click photo to enlarge)

Figure 3: Together traditional knowledge and scientific information can intertwine to provide placed-based responses to the drivers of social and environmental change. Gwaii Haanas also known as the Islands of Beauty, is in an oceanic upwelling region in the North Pacific. This provides cold nutrient-rich waters that have supported high levels of biological productivity, endemic species, migratory birds, and the Haida people for thousands of years. This National Park has intrinsic conservation potential for an array of environmental and social values.

It is vital to the success of the project that design, management, and monitoring are not separated, but rather that a holistic approach is taken to integrate these components. Systematic use of the cycle and steps listed above can allow practitioners to learn more about the system they are working in and can lead to increased effectiveness and efficiency over time (Salafsky and Margoulis, 2003).

Image sourced from: Waylen et al 2019

Testing Assumptions: The process of experimentally implementing different actions in attempts to achieve a desirable outcome based on knowledge of the problem, the objectives, the operational environment, management alternatives, and potential consequences. This is not a random process and post-implementation monitoring will be needed to evaluate (1) the ability of the different approaches to meet the desired outcome and (2) how they compare to the assumptions. This will allow managers to see which actions worked as well as develop a better understanding of why some approaches performed better than others (Salafsky and Margoulis, 2003)

Adapting: The ability to incorporate newly gained knowledge, different perspectives, and values into the project. This may also involve critically assessing the validity of the results, the assumptions, and the implementation and monitoring of the project. This may include changing assumptions, tweaking the study design, and/or considering different approaches.

Learning: Documenting the planning, implementation, and evaluation of the project so that others may review the processes taken to achieve the outcomes. Knowledge sharing will allow for others to benefit from these experiences and build upon the successes or failures of the project (Salafsky and Margoulis, 2003).

The realist approach which acknowledges that many of our environmental issues are a result of an off-balance within the socio-ecological systems that we eat, breath, and sleep in, may in fact get us much closer to the actual problem. There is no simple solution. More than ever, we need to find ways to balance our social needs (livelihoods, culture, economics, equity) within the means of nature to provide these goods and services. As with many other organisms, we humans may have to adapt, evolve, or die as we continue further into the Anthropocene.

Adaptive management is only of several frameworks which attempt to provide leaders and managers with the ability to start implementing actions in the face of uncertainty. Together we can be the change we want to see. Together we can build a better planet for future generations by addressing some of the issues seen today and creating more diverse and equitable management approaches to conserving biodiversity and ecosystem services. I would love to hear and share any success stories where (1) adaptive management approaches have been implemented in parks and/or resource management or (2) examples on how local and indigenous ideas, values, and perspectives have been incorporated into strategic plans, policies, and projects.

Share your story with me at: skyejarvis333@live.com

REFERENCES:

Salafsky, N. and R. Margoluis. 1998. Measures of Success: Designing, managing, and monitoring conservation and development projects. Island Press Washington DC.

Salafsky, N. & Margoluis, R. (2003). Adaptive management: An Approach for Evaluating Management Effectiveness. (PDF).

Virapongse, A., Brooks, S., Metcalf, E. C., Zedalis, M., Gosz, J., Kliskey, A., and L. Alessa. 2016. A social-ecological systems approach for environmental management. Journal of Environmental Management 178: 83-91.

Waylen, K. A., Blackstock, K. L., Van Hulst, F. J., Damian, C., Horváth, F., Johnson, R. K., … & J. Van Uytvanck. 2019. Policy-driven monitoring and evaluation: Does it support adaptive management of socio-ecological systems? Science of the Total Environment 662: 373-384.

Case Spotlight: The Right to Dismantle Encampments in Parks and Public Spaces

by Stanley Omotor

Stanley Omotor is part of a team of CPCIL Research and Knowledge Gatherers producing content and compiling resources on themes such as inclusion, ecosocial justice, partnerships, conservation, organizational sustainability, climate change and biodiversity, connection to nature, conservation financing, and ecotourism, to support effective and equitable leadership and inclusion in parks and protected areas across Canada.

In a number of judicial cases, now known as “encampment cases”, courts in British Columbia (BC) have prohibited government authorities and park agencies from dismantling encampments set up in parks by persons experiencing homelessness, in the absence of shelter alternatives. However, in a recent decision in Ontario, the Superior Court of Justice refused an application that would have restrained the City of Hamilton from dismantling similar encampments set up in Hamilton’s parks. Following the Ontario’s court decision, the City of Hamilton was swift in moving to enforce its bylaw prohibiting encampments in the city’s parks.

These decisions and their outcome should matter to park leaders, park agencies, and all members of the public, especially persons who make use of the services of parks and public spaces 

There is little difference between leisure camping and necessity camping (the latter of which this blog post associates with encampments set up by persons experiencing homelessness). Imagine tents in a forest, people socializing, getting through their day, then sleeping in the forest. This is what happens in both leisure and necessity camping, but unlike the former which involve a voluntary choice to sleep in the forest, the latter is made to sleep out because of the necessity of it, as there is nowhere else to call home. However, as park officials are quick to argue in encampment cases, necessity camping restricts other members of the public from accessing park services. In pointing out that government and park agencies need to do more than simply dismantling encampments in parks and public places, this blog post points out some differences in the above two judicial decisions which deal with the power of the park agencies to dismantle encampments. Although the judicial decisions were based on municipal parks, it is not unlikely that similar principles will apply to provincial and national parks.

BC courts have consistently held that persons experiencing homelessness be allowed to remain at encampments set up in parks, public spaces, vacant lands, or city’s properties, in the absence of suitable alternative housing and daytime facilities. In a recent 2021 case (Prince George (City) v. Stewart), the City of Prince George in seeking a court order that would allow the city to remove structures set up in parks by persons experiencing homelessness, the City had argued, amongst others, that the encampments caused harm to residents and businesses in surrounding neighbourhood, led to increase in criminal activities and drug use, and deprived members of the public of walking at or near the encampments due to garbage, smell and safety concerns. In partly refusing the City’s application, the BC Supreme Court considered the evidence presented by the city in support of the above allegations as hearsay and inadmissible evidence. Also, the court found that there was insufficient alternate housing for the persons experiencing homelessness to enable the court grant the city’s application. 

The opposite conclusion was reached by the Superior Court of Justice in Ontario in the case of Poff v. City of Hamilton (2021)which was decided less than two weeks after the decision in the above Stewart’s case. In Poff’s case, the applicants who resided at different encampments in Hamilton parks, sought a court order to restrain the city from enacting and enforcing a bylaw that prohibited camping and the erection of structures in the city’s parks. In this case, the court accepted the evidence presented by city staff based on documented evidence, personal observation and other sources as credible and reliable evidence linking criminal activities, violence, drug use, health concerns, nuisance and indecency associated with some of the encampments in the parks, thereby preventing city residents from using the parks. Despite noting that Hamilton, like other parts of Canada, is experiencing an affordable housing crisis, the court held that the city has taken reasonable steps to provide alternative safe shelter and accommodation to persons experiencing homelessness, but the applicants rejected these alternatives for personal reasons and preference, and that this does not “give rise to aright to live in encampments in (the City’s park)”. Consequently, in refusing to restrain the City from enforcing the bylaw in question, the court noted the right of other members of the public to make use of parks and concluded that the bylaw was a valid exercise of the City’s power.

Although the decision from Ontario is only an interim decision (being an interlocutory injunction application) at the moment, it provides government at all levels (from federal to municipal) with more options to enable sustainable, healthy and inclusive parks and public spaces. Notably, in arriving at its decision, the Superior Court in Ontario referred to, but distinguished, the preceding encampment cases in BC, including the recent Stewart’s case. This may therefore be an emerging judicial trend. To prevent the erection of tents, structures and shelter in public spaces, government and park agencies need to do more than rely on hearsay evidence on the impacts of these encampments in parks and public places. There are usually no concerns when other leisure-seeking members of society camp in parks and public spaces, but concerns are raised when persons experiencing homelessness seek similar opportunities. Persons experiencing homelessness are often deprived of these opportunities. The court in Poff’s case rightly noted the affordable housing crisis being experienced by many Canadian cities. For instance, the Vancouver Homeless Count 2019 shows the increasing number of persons experiencing homelessness in Metro Vancouver, compared to previous years. As of 2019, a total number of 2,223 individuals were counted as experiencing homelessness in Vancouver, the highest number since 2015 when the count began. Increasing cost of affordable housing with less comparative increase in income may mean that many individuals and families are just one life-changing and unforeseen event away from becoming homeless. Encampment cases and the plight of persons experiencing homelessness, therefore, need to be of concern to all park leaders. Persons experiencing homelessness are as human as other members of the society not experiencing homelessness – the former only does camping out of necessity and for a longer-term than the latter. Encampments in parks and public places is one of the unintended consequences of the high cost of affordable housing in many Canadian cities, hence the need to take an approach that considers both crisis – housing and encampment crisis. In one of the encampment cases (Abbotsford v. Shantz (2015)), the court had therefore recommended designating certain public parks for use by persons experiencing homelessness Also, a previous study had linked how restricting access and use of public facilities may result in human rights concern in land use planning.

Finally, as rightly noted by the court in Poff’s case, cities may need to show sufficient alternate housing options if persons experiencing homelessness are to be prevented from camping in parks. If sufficient alternate housing is in place, courts will be more willing to uphold relevant bylaws allowing the city to prevent and dismantle encampments in parks and public spaces.

Parks, Representation and Black History Leadership Primer – A Participant Review

by Nathaniel Rose

Nathaniel Rose is part of a team of CPCIL Research and Knowledge Gatherers producing content and compiling resources on themes such as inclusion, ecosocial justice, partnerships, conservation, organizational sustainability, climate change and biodiversity, connection to nature, conservation financing, and ecotourism, to support effective and equitable leadership and inclusion in parks and protected areas across Canada.

This past week I had the opportunity to participate in the online Leadership Primer, “Parks, Representation and Black History” created by Jaqueline L. Scott. The goal of this unique online course is to explore equity and diversity in Canadian Parks and find ways to make Black Canadians feel more welcome in natural places. You can find the course on the website for the Canadian Parks Collective for Innovation and Leadership (instructions are at the bottom of this article) and it is free!

As a Knowledge Gatherer for CPCIL, rather than a Parks Leader, I did not have a specific park or protected area that I was connecting to through the Primer, but I still was able to connect with the teachings the Primer had to offer.

            The Primer was mainly focused on Black Representation in Canadian Parks, and through a series of exercises, got me to think about how to make parks a more welcoming experience for Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour. The Primer also included a series of case studies outlining Black history in areas that you might not have known Black people played a role in. By the end of the primer I felt I was definitely in the process of questioning Black people’s representation in natural spaces, and the images and contexts used to promote them.

Here’s a bit of what I learned:

People of colour make up about 25% of Canada’s population, and in cities like Toronto and Vancouver, make up the majority of residents, but they don’t often travel to and spend time in natural areas (1). This is because there are barriers they come across, in the way parks are promoted and represented. Many of them are actually frustrated, as they feel the outdoor sector doesn’t include them (1).

            People interact with parks in a variety of ways: names of trails, social media, brochures, newsletters, maps and historical and informative plaques. But many times these ways of interacting become “white spaces” as Black people and people of colour are not shown in the images used, the history shown, or the names given to these places.

            For example: when you think about a park brochure, sometimes only white people are shown in the photos used, or if Black people are shown, they may not be doing the same thing that there white counterparts are. One of the exercises in the Primer asks you to question:

1) Whether Black people are the main subject of the photo, or if they remain in the background

2) Whether they are alone, pictured as a couple, or in a group

3) If it’s a couple or a group, are all the people Black?

4) What are the Black People doing in the photo?  

                  -Scott

These questions help you to think and reflect on the way Black people are portrayed. Interestingly enough, people are less likely to try an activity if they don’t see people of their race or culture participating in that activity. So a lot of how you promote a place does a lot to determine who feels eager and welcome to go to it.

Image by Keira Burton

The end of each exercise in the primer, asks you to question what opportunities you can think of for changing the landscape of black representation in your park. For example, one question is: “ What opportunities are there to add new plaques in your park to reflect the multicultural history of the park or areas around it?” (Scott). Another question was: “Who could you reach out to find these stories?” (Scott). I found that this second question was a really helpful step, in getting you to actually start making change in your park.

 

The second section of the Primer focused on different case studies of Black people in history. Notably many of the examples were new to me, and not something I had been taught in school. Scott smartly notes that “Appealing to Black history is a way to get Black people to visit National and Provincial Parks”. It locates Black people in the space in the past, so they feel they can visit in the present. It sends the message that if they were there in the past, why not come now? Including Black history in plaques or park brochures would then be a good step in ensuring the Black population feels welcome in that space.

One interesting fact I learned was that Black people were involved in the Fur Trade. I learned this through a case study of George Bonga, who held a trading post at Leech Lake, which is now in Minnesota, and was an important cultural delegate between the Ojibwe and Europeans (2). He signed two treaties between them, one in 1820 and one in 1867 (2). Another fact that I learned was that Black people had a lot to do with the Ranching Industry and the Calgary Stampede in Western Canada (1).  I found it particularly interesting that a cowboy, named John Ware, was said to be gentle with horses, almost a “horse whisperer” (3). When I learned this, I remember thinking: “Huh, this is the first time I had thought of Black people being sensitive with animals”. Not that I didn’t think that was possible, but I had never learned about a specific person who was Black and who also worked closely and intuitively with animals.  This changed my perspective on the breadth of humans interacting with the animal kingdom.

Image by Peter Starcevic

 The Primer ended with a great question: Why are we not taught about these notable Black people in the school system?. In a video interview about John Ware, author and playwright Cheryl Fogo notes that she is hopeful and optimistic that we (Albertans) are getting there (3). Fogo notes that she has been involved in talks about updating Alberta’s school curriculum (this was back in 2017). I wonder what progress we have made so far…

I definitely recommend taking this Leadership Primer on Black Representation in Parks. I learned a lot about Black history and grew a lot in terms of my own awareness of how to transform parks to make them more welcoming to Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour. I also found I could apply this knowledge to other areas of my work – including my work in the theatre sector. 

You can find the Primer at https://cpcil.ca/leadership-primers/ or by going to the CPCIL Home Page and selecting “Leadership Programs” in the top menu banner and then selecting “Leadership Primers”. This Primer is called “Parks, Representation and Black History” and was created by Jaqueline L. Scott. There are a handful of other Leadership Primers to take there as well.

Works Cited

1) Scott, Jaqueline L. “Parks, Representation and Black History.” Canadian Parks Collective for Innovation and Leadership., www.cpcil.ca/courses/2021-representation/. Accessed 13 Dec. 2021.

2) TPT Originals. “Voyageur. Entrepreneu. Diplomat. Meet MN Black Pioneer George Bonga.” Youtube, 18 February, 2019. www.youtube.com/watch?v=VUTzqxZH2D0. Accessed 14 Dec. 2021.

3) Breakfast Television. “Black History Month: The Story of John Ware.” Youtube, 15 February, 2017, www.youtube.com/watch?v=5DaeyxtgkSM. Accessed 14 Dec. 2021.

Photos Sourced from: pexels.com