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Vol. 2, No. 2

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An Ecosystem Charter for the Bay of Fundy / Gulf of Maine

Larry Hildebrand
Head, Coastal Liaison,
Environment Canada

Do we the citizens inhabiting the Bay of Fundy/Gulf of Maine ecosystem have a collective vision for the future of this place we call home? Is there a common set of basic principles by which we live our lives and conduct our activities? Do governments at all levels, businesses, non-government organizations, community groups, Aboriginal people, and interested citizens in both Canada and the US have a shared set of goals and objectives toward which we are striving? Perhaps. But there has been no one place, nor single mechanism through which we can collectively explore and ultimately express a broad, common agenda.

One means of finding and expressing such common values is through the creation of an "Ecosystem Charter." An Ecosystem Charter is a voluntary "good faith" agreement among the broad cross-section of stakeholders in a region that explicitly defines principles, goals, and objectives for an ecosystem approach to management, highlights the actions that are being taken, and provides a vehicle for their expression. To twist an old adage, it's an opportunity "to put your mouth where your money is."

This is not a new, or untried concept. A very successful Charter exists for another ecosystem shared by the US and Canada the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Basin (GLSLB). Launched in 1994, following an extensive period of consultation and cooperative development, this Charter now has over 160 stakeholder endorsements and more are being added every month. The Charter was developed by deriving the fundamental values and principles inherent in the numerous laws, polices, goals, and objective statements of all governments, non-profit organizations, Aboriginal groups, and community-based organizations in the region. The Charter was then promoted widely and endorsements from stakeholders were secured to comprise a composite view of the basic principles that should guide our relationship with the ecosystem. Visit to view the GLSLB Charter.

Those endorsing the Charter are expected only to accept its overall intent and to use it as guidance in the development of their work plans and priorities, as a vehicle to enhance communication and cooperation with others, and as a means for assessing progress toward a shared vision for the basin. An Ecosystem Charter is a living document that would be revised over time as our understanding of ecosystem management evolves and the views of more and more stakeholders are sought and incorporated. One of the most significant features of an Ecosystem Charter is that is "owned" by all signatories any school group, church organization, non-profit group, business, agency, or governmental jurisdiction that subscribes to its principles can become a part of this collective vision.

An Ecosystem Charter for the Bay of Fundy/Gulf of Maine would be built on this approach. We are proposing the concept through the Gulf of Maine Times in an effort to see if there is broad interest in developing such a consensus document. So, if you think this is something worth pursuing, and/or want to share your thoughts on how we might proceed, please contact: Larry Hildebrand, Environment Canada, 5th Floor, Queen Square, 45 Alderney Drive, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, B2Y 2N6; E-mail or fax (902) 426-4457.