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Finding “Space” for Comanagement of Forests within the Neoliberal Paradigm: Rights, Strategies, and Tools for Asserting a Local Agenda

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Abstract

As neoliberalism continues to influence environmental governance, it affects notions about the appropriate level of community involvement in resource management. Under more recent iterations, hybrid forms of governance are emphasized, including government–civil society partnerships and approaches geared towards harnessing the strengths of local communities. Here we explore the characteristics of different resource management rights, strategies, and tools through which communities can find political space to assert their own agendas within a neoliberalized policy environment. We examine the successful use of some of these approaches by communities during the initial development of community forests policy and practice in British Columbia, Canada. While we confirm the complex, contingent and case-specific nature of opportunities for comanagement created through neoliberal policy elements, we suggest that space does exist for community forest bodies to assert local values, goals and strategies, demonstrating the creativity, ingenuity and determination of communities to attain a real voice in management.

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Notes

  1. The BCCFA is a network of rural, community-based organizations in BC that are engaged in community forest management, as well as those seeking to establish community forests. It sees itself as part of a global movement committed to culturally, ecologically, and economically sustainable forestry. See Gunter (2004) for a discussion of the vision.

  2. We use “majors” as the common shorthand for the large multinational corporations with integrated timber harvesting and milling capacity in more than one country. In BC these corporations had been granted long-term leases involving rights to harvest Crown timber but some 95% of timber was still owned by the Crown.

  3. It appears that the MOFR is reserving judgment about how much the program might further expand, since the tenure taken back from the majors has not been fully reallocated.

  4. The BCCFA estimated after an extensive discussion at their 2005 AGM that a minimum annual allowable cut of 50,000 m3 in the interior and 25,000 m3 on the coast is necessary for a viable community forest, because of the costs of infrastructure (approximately $200,000/year). Only six of BC community forests operating in 2007 meet this criterion for viability. Not all community forests agree with this estimation applies universally, because of differing situations regarding NTFPs, possession of a mill, and access to competitive local markets.

  5. According to interviewees, one economic analysis with widespread credibility estimates that a log yard sort requires at least 45,000 m3/year to be reasonably profitable.

  6. Recommendation #19 in the 2006 Community Forests Program Review states that “A consistent proposal review, agreement award and issuance process should be applied throughout the province".

  7. The range of benefits derived from community forests, including place-oriented identity, subjective well-being, economic and cultural stability, small-scale economic diversity, is not well discussed in the literature but should include the “obvious and sustained commitment of people to the places and ecosystems under their control” (Lerner 1993; Sheppard 2003).

  8. Environmental provisions limiting logging were further curtailed in subsequent years and governmental oversight of even these provisions severely limited by the inability of government in most cases to question the judgment of professionals privately contracted to approve logging plans (Marchak and Allen 2003).

  9. The funding, expertise, and studies done for HPCF to enable them to take this position are detailed in Elias (2000) and Pinnell and Elias (2002). The community performed additional studies to spell out its assumptions about protection needed for unstable slopes and the riparian zone, and the community and MOFR agreed to disagree on these assumptions.

  10. Hoberg (2001) notes that there were Landscape Units established in only three of BC’s 40 Forest Districts.

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Acknowledgements

Thanks to Ramona Faust, Jim Smith, Thomas Maness, Ray Travers, John Welch, Jennifer Gunter, and Susan Mulkey for comments on earlier drafts. They are not, however, responsible for errors of fact or interpretation. Thanks to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada for supporting aspects of this research.

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Pinkerton, E., Heaslip, R., Silver, J.J. et al. Finding “Space” for Comanagement of Forests within the Neoliberal Paradigm: Rights, Strategies, and Tools for Asserting a Local Agenda. Hum Ecol 36, 343–355 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10745-008-9167-4

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