Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Environmental Studies (MES)


Geography & Environmental Studies


Faculty of Arts

First Advisor

D. Scott Slocombe

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


This thesis reviews a series of river basin ecosystem restoration/enhancement projects carried out under the direction of three individual southern Ontario conservation authorities in their respective river basins. The three authorities are the Grand River Conservation Authority, the Maitland Valley Conservation Authority, and the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority. A review from the published literature dealing with river basins, ecosystems, and environmental management supports the analysis of restoration projects. The criterion by which the literature articles were selected was that they have relevance to the type of environmental issues that are common to the river basins in the study areas. Comparisons made between the three conservation authorities’ restoration efforts are based on the investigation and assessment of a sample of four published restoration projects on file at each of the authorities’ head offices. A five component conceptual framework was used to analyze each of the twelve projects. The accumulated assessment data formed the basis for comparison. There are some observations and conclusions to be drawn from this thesis. The evolution of the conservation authorities’ approach to ecosystem restoration has occurred in response to the development of new knowledge, changes in public attitudes, changes in government policies, and changes in available operating resources. Although all conservation authorities operate within a similar mandate, they exercise enough individual autonomy to address their individual basin’s specific issues. The conservation authorities have demonstrated their resilience in response to current deep governmental financial constraints by recruiting volunteers, e.g. for the development of their sub-watershed and watershed plans. Nearly all of their sub-watershed plans are administered through public stewardship organizations. They have successfully solicited funds from organizations that allot financial grants for environmental causes, e.g. for the Grand River forestry plan. Ecosystem restoration is one of several conservation authority responsibilities. It represents a major advance in their operational evolution from their core mandate of soil and water conservation, stream flow control, and water quality, through applying the ecosystem approach at the sub-watershed level, and toward basin-wide management plans, e.g. GRCA’s Grand River forestry plan, and MVCA’s Maitland Watershed Partnerships project. No doubt, the river basin has been shown to be the logical geographical area in southern Ontario on which to base conservation management strategies. Individual conservation authorities have accumulated over fifty years experience in successful management of environmental issues at the river basin level, through which they have gained a body of knowledge about their individual river basin that must surpass that held by any other organization. Such experience should qualify them for taking on an expanded role in crucial ecosystem restoration issues like those associated with groundwater, wetlands, waste management, public stewardship, and the development of ecosystem management strategies.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season