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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Resilient forests, resilient communities : facing change, challenge, and disturbance in British Columbia and Oregon Davis, Emily Jane


This research examines 1) the historical precedents for the complex ecological and socioeconomic disturbances that forest communities in the North American West face today; and 2) the multi-level governance approaches that have arisen to address these disturbances. There has been a rise in multi-level, regional forms of environmental governance that cross scales and involve stakeholders in resource management and community development decisions. Scholars of community-based natural resource management and resilience have argued that devolution affords local empowerment, and that multi-level governance can ensure a “fit” between complex ecosystems and institutions. In contrast, political ecologists and human geographers have expressed concern that such arrangements are manifestations of the withdrawal of the state from public lands management. I use two in-depth, qualitative case studies of multi-level governance efforts in Interior British Columbia and central Oregon to analyze how such arrangements work, and who benefits and has power under their auspices. In particular, I focus on 11 social dimensions of multi-level governance that were accessible through qualitative means. I asked how the historical and local dynamics of communities of place and interest in each case study affected these dimensions and therefore the functioning of multi-level governance. I contend that multi-level governance is a useful model for governance through change and challenge, because the impacts of these complex disturbances cut across many stakes and kinds of forest-community relationships. I found that while it is the experience of present and fear of future crises that create the opportunity for response, it is the past that frequently affects exactly how that governance will function. The histories of land use and relationships in specific places have been fundamental to the stakes that different participants in multi-level governance bring to the table. My analysis revealed that historical experiences make five of my proposed social dimensions the most influential in the working of multi-level governance: framing, access, memory, identity, and learning. In sum, this research asserts that historical, local, and social dynamics are significant determinants of how equitable a multi-level governance organization may be, and who it represents and benefits.

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