Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Environmental Studies (MES)


Geography & Environmental Studies


Faculty of Arts

First Advisor

D. Scott Slocombe

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


External threats to protected areas exist because the area encompassed by the legal boundaries of many protected areas is less than what is needed to maintain a minimum viable population of various animal species and some types of plant associations. While external stresses to parks are the result of a wide range of human activities, they threaten ecological integrity in two general ways: by contributing to habitat fragmentation, alienation and loss (HFAL), and/or undermining the long-term viability of transboundary animal populations. However, in comparison to internal threats, addressing external threats is considerably more complex since park managers have no legal authority on adjacent private and public lands. In response, Parks Canada has adopted ecosystem management (EM) as a means of managing external threats to national parks. In order to implement EM at the landscape level, cooperative management strategies, also known as partnerships, are a means by which park managers can collaborate with adjacent actors to address various external threats. To date, relatively little work has been done to identify how such partnerships can be initiated and maintained. This paucity of information can be primarily attributed to the fact that relations between park managers and adjacent landowners and agencies have historically been confrontational in nature with conservation interests being seen as antithetical to development interests and vice versa. This thesis examines several EM partnership initiatives for Banff National Park (BNP) and Waterton Lakes National Park (WLNP) both in the Rocky Mountain region of Alberta. An analysis of the initiatives reveals that in addition to formal obstacles pertaining to planning legislation for adjacent public and private lands, numerous informal obstacles influence the ability of Parks Canada to implement EM at the landscape level: the ambiguity of ecological research and knowledge; the diversity of interests at the landscape level; the downsizing and reorganization of Parks Canada; the impact of past multi-stakeholder initiatives; and rapidly changing social, economic and political conditions. In addition to emphasizing the importance of tailoring partnerships to a specific biophysical and socioeconomic context, this research argues for Parks Canada to see its role as a facilitator rather than as an implementor for EM. Since this transfers the responsibility of implementing EM on adjacent lands into the hands of local people, organizations and institutions, this may lead to greater acceptance of the concept, thus reducing the severity of external threats facing national parks.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season