Problem: Several hundred horses owned by members of the Penticton Indian Band (PIB) were roaming in residential neighborhoods and adjacent to Highway 97. The horses posed a serious safety risk and were responsible for significant property damage, including fences, irrigation systems, and gardens.
Background: In the past, the Canadian Pacific Railway had maintained fencing between its tracks and PIB range lands, effectively excluding the horses from residential neighborhoods. But, once the trains stopped running in the 1980s, the fences fell into disrepair. At the same time, raising horses became less profitable for members of the PIB and the herd became effectively wild. Years of tense relationships between the Penticton Indian Band and adjacent communities resulted in acrimony and inaction. All the while, the herd was growing.
Challenges: Adjacent communities had no legal jurisdiction over the horses. Provincial right-to-farm legislation suggested that the only solution was for neighboring communities to fence the entirety of the PIB reserve.
Process: Rather than jump to potential solutions, we conducted two multi-round Delphi surveys. The first was to elicit fundamental objectives from the community. The assumption within the local government was that non-PIB communities would be unwilling to pay for any solution. However, a different set of priorities emerged during the three rounds of the consultation exercise. Instead of being primarily cost sensitive, local residents reported being much more interested in (a) the durability of the solution, (b) humane treatment of the horses, and (c) maintaining and improving relationships with the PIB. Cost minimization was an important objective, of course, but it was not the primary objective of most participants. A second multi-round Delphi was then run to elicit potential solutions from residents and other stakeholders. The purpose of the second round of surveys was not to evaluate alternatives, but to generate a complete set by drawing on the experience and creativity of citizens and other stakeholders. After all, planning and engineering staff within the local government had virtually no experience with this kind of problem.
Results: The panels for both surveys was kept to 50-60 participants. However, the total number of ideas, justifications, comments received during the process exceeded 1,400. Overall, the results of the survey gave the local government a strong mandate to move forward on a solution that satisfied the most important objectives. However, the transparency, inclusiveness, and comprehensiveness of the public process, combined with the strong support that emerged within adjacent communities for the traditional rights of PIB members and the well-being of the horses changed the adversarial stances that had evolved in response to the problem. Ultimately, the PIB took it upon itself to insist on better range management practices from its members and the problem virtually disappeared.