Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Geography & Environmental Studies

Program Name/Specialization

Environmental Resource Management


Faculty of Arts

First Advisor

Scott Slocombe

Advisor Role

Thesis Advisor



The concept of protected areas (PAs) has undergone important changes. The goals and purposes of PAs are to conserve animal and plant species, landscapes and ecological processes and to provide for outdoor recreation opportunities. PA management approaches have also undergone important changes. The once widely accepted doctrines of top-down management have been replaced by management models that include a diversity of actors. In some instances, actors are now sharing governing responsibilities with state representatives while in other instances central government has transferred rights, responsibilities and authority to lower levels of government and non-state actors for the planning and management of PAs.

It is generally accepted that PAs should not be viewed as separate entities or ‘islands’ within their region. PAs are connected to their region through ecological processes, social interactions and economic activities. The process of regional integration is heavily influenced by contextual factors such as history, economy, governance and biophysical environments and individual actors’ ability to listen, respect others and compromise. In this study, regional integration is defined as a complex process that incorporates PA staff and regional actors through formal and informal institutional mechanisms in order to synchronize and address planning and management opportunities through the sharing of individual and shared goals.

Approaches to PA management focus on understanding the institutions, both formal and informal, and governance processes that guide relationships between PAs and regional actors. These were examined with the goals to improve management practices and to contribute to the theory of regional integration of PAs. This qualitative study adopted a social constructivist epistemology, case study methodology and triangulated research methods (interviews, document analysis, participant observations and journaling). Three case studies located in the Province of Québec were selected: Mauricie Region, Saguenay Region, and Gaspésie Region. Additional site visits were also scheduled in Québec City and Montreal with large environmental non-government organizations and government officials. A total of 96 semi-structured interviews were completed with 99 actors from provincial and federal park and protected area agencies, provincial ministries, First Nations, resource industries, ENGOs and individual citizens.

Each case study had both formal and informal institutions shaped by the regional contexts for integration and communication between PA staff and regional actors. The Mauricie region demonstrated a strong link between different regional actors in the PA planning process. Many participants indicated that there was almost no integration between the La Mauricie National Park and regional actors. The Gaspésie region had multiple perspectives regarding regional integration. Many participants indicated a positive shift regarding the way in which Forillon National Park staff interact with regional actors and attribute this to new mechanisms implemented by park staff to communicate with them. Gaspésie National Park faces challenges regarding information sharing and regional perspectives towards the park. The Saguenay region demonstrated positive long-standing regional integration mechanisms, mostly focused around the marine park, but participants also indicate a change for the better regarding the SEPAQ parks and the forestry industry.

The conceptual framework developed to conduct this study allowed for the examination and explanation of the complex process of regional integration. Regional integration for PAs changes over time and is heavily influenced by individual actors and contextual factors such as institutional histories. Regional integration requires both formal and informal institutions that are capable of operating simultaneously at different scales in order to provide or increase resilience and adaptability of management and planning exercises. Trust between actors is a pre-requisite for successful regional integration. Since most decision-making occurs through compromises between actors, trust building ensures that there are no perceived ulterior hidden motivations, allowing for a redistribution of decision making powers between actors. Successful regional integration requires that actors participate in decision-making processes from a strategic-level as this ensures that decisions regarding what should be done and how to proceed can properly be reached.

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