Skip to main content
Log in

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

  • Published:
Human Ecology Aims and scope Submit manuscript


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.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Similar content being viewed by others


  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.


  • British Columbia Ministry of Forests. (1992). An Old Growth Strategy for British Columbia, Victoria, BC, 74 p

  • British Columbia Watershed Protection Alliance. (1988). Handbook. Box 9. Winlaw, BC V0G 2J0.

  • Brody, H. (1981). Maps and Dreams. Douglas and McIntyre, Vancouver, BC.

    Google Scholar 

  • Burda, C., Curran, D., Gale, F., and M’Gonigle, M. (1997). Forests in Trust: Reforming British Columbia’s Forest Tenure System for Ecosystem and Community Health. Report series R97-2. Faculty of Law and Environmental Studies Programme, University of Victoria.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cashore, B., Hoberg, G., Howlett, M., Rayner, J., and Wilson, J. (2001). In Search of Sustainability: British Columbia’s Forest Policy in the 1990s. University of British Columbia Press, Vancouver.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cathro, J. (2004). Generating revenue: marketing your logs. In Gunter, J. (ed.), The Community Forestry Guidebook: Tools and Techniques for Communities in British Columbia, FORREX and BCCFA, pp 61–66, FORREX Series 15.

  • Dobbin, M. (2006). Commentary: Emerson not at B.C.’s Service. The Georgia Strait. March 2.

  • Donovan, P. (1999). Creating an Open Log Market in Interior British Columbia. Managing Wholes: Creating a Future that Works.

  • Elias, H. (2000). Harrop and Procter. How a Persistent Community Fashioned its Own Forestry Future. Ecoforestry 15: 218–26.

    Google Scholar 

  • Feit, H. (2004). Contested identities of “Indians” and “Whitemen” at James Bay, or the power of reason, hybridity and agency. In Irimoto, T., and Yamada, T. (eds.), Circumpolar Ethnicity and Identity. Senri Ethnological Studies, Osaka, pp. 109–126.

    Google Scholar 

  • Forest Practices Code of British Columbia Act. (1994). B.C. Forestry Law.

  • Gunter, J. (ed.) (2004). The Community Forestry Guidebook: Tools and Techniques for Communities in British Columbia, FORREX and BCCFA. FORREX Series 15.

  • Hamilton, G. (2006). Forestry Changes Failing Truck Loggers: Market Forces Derailed Changes, they Say. The Vancouver Sun. November 23rd.

  • Hayter, R. (2003). “The War in the Woods”: Post-fordist Restructuring, Globalization, and the Contested Remapping of British Columbia’s Forest Economy. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 93: 3706–729.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hoberg, G. (2001). The 6% solution: the forest practices code. In Cashore, B., Hoberg, G., Howlet, M., Rayner, J., and Wilson, J. (eds.), In Search of Sustainability: British Columbia Forest Policy in the 1990s. University of British Columbia Press, Vancouver.

    Google Scholar 

  • Klenner, W., and Huggard, D. (1995). Procedures for Ranking Landscape Units for Biodiversity Emphasis Allocation in the Kamloops LRMP, Ministry of Forests, Kamloops Region, 18 pp.

  • Krogman, N., and Beckley, T. (2002). Corporate “Bail-Out” and local “Buyouts”: Pathways to Community Forestry. Society & Natural Resources 15: 2109–127.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Langdon, S. (2006). “Ish”: Exploring a Tlingit Relational Concept and Associated Practices with SAlmon. Paper presented at the ISSRM conference, Vancouver.

  • Lemos, M., and Agrawal, A. (2006). Environmental Governance. Annual Review of Environment and Resources 31: 297–325.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lerner, S. (ed.) (1993). Environmental Stewardship: Studies in Active Earthkeeping, University of Waterloo, Dept. of Geography, Waterloo, ONT.

  • Lockie, S., and Higgins, V. (2007). Roll-out Neoliberalism and Hybrid Practices of Regulation in Australian Agri-environmental Governance. Journal of Rural Studies 23: 1–11.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Maness, T., and Nelson, H. (2007) The Separation of Land Management and Manufacturing in Forest Tenures in BC. Working Paper for the BC Forum on Forest Economics and Policy.

  • Marchak, P., and Allen, S. D. (2003). BC Forests 2003. An Appraisal of Government Policies. Report to the David Suzuki Foundation. Vancouver BC.

  • Mater, C., and Mater, S. (1998). Vernon Forestry: Log Sorting for Profit. In Jenkins, M., and Smith, E. (eds.), The Business of Sustainable Forestry. Strategies for an Industry in Transition. Island Press, Washington, DC, pp. 148–156.

    Google Scholar 

  • McCarthy, J. (2006). Neoliberalism and the Politics of Alternatives: Community Forests in British Columbia and the United States. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 96: 184–104.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • M’Gonigle, M. (1998a). Living communities in a living forest: towards an ecosystem-based structure of local tenure and management. In Tollefson, C. (ed.), The Wealth of Forests: Markets, Regulation, and Sustainable Forestry. University of British Columbia Press, Vancouver, pp. 102–119.

    Google Scholar 

  • M’Gonigle, M. (1998b). Structural instruments and sustainable forests: a political ecology approach. In Tollefson, C. (ed.), The Wealth of Forests: Markets, Regulation, and Sustainable Forestry. University of British Columbia Press, Vancouver, pp. 152–185.

    Google Scholar 

  • Niquidet, K., and van Kooten, G. C. (2006). Transaction Evidence Appraisal: Competition in British Columbia’s Stumpage Markets. Forest Science 52: 4451–459.

    Google Scholar 

  • Pearse, P. H. (2001). Crisis and Opportunity in the Coast Forest Industry. A Report to the Minister of Forests on British Columbia’s coastal forest industry.

  • Peck, J., and Tickell, A. (2002). Neoliberalizing Space. Antipode 34: 3380–404.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Peel, A. L. (1991). The Forest Resources Commission: The Future of our Forests. Ministry of Forests and Range, Victoria, BC.

    Google Scholar 

  • Peluso, N. (1995). Whose Woods are These? Counter-mapping Forest Territories in Kalimantan, Indonesia. Antipode 27: 4383–406.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Pinkerton, E. W. (1987). Competition among B.C. fish processing firms. In Marchak, P., Guppy, N., and McMullan, J. (eds.), Uncommon Property: The Fishing and Fish Processing Industries of British Columbia. University of British Columbia Press, Vancouver, pp. 66–91.

    Google Scholar 

  • Pinkerton, E. W. (1993). Analyzing Co-management Efforts as Social Movements: The Tin-Wis Coalition and the Drive for Forest Practice Legislation in British Columbia. Alternatives 19: 333–38.

    Google Scholar 

  • Pinkerton, E. (2003). Toward specificity in complexity: understanding co-management from a social science perspective. In Douglas, W. C., Nielsen, J. R., and Degnbol, P. (eds.), The Fisheries Co-management Experience: Accomplishments, Challenges And Prospects. Kluwer, Dordrecht, pp. 61–77.

    Google Scholar 

  • Pinkerton, E., and Weinstein, M. (1995). Fisheries that Work. Sustainability Through Community-based Management, David Suzuki Foundation, #219, 2211 West 4th Ave., Vancouver, BC. V6K 4S2, 199 p

  • Pinnell, H., and Elias, H. (2002). How the Harrop–Procter Community is Harvesting its Forest. Ecoforestry 17: 48–16.

    Google Scholar 

  • Province of British Columbia. (1993). A Protected Areas Strategy for British Columbia. The Protected Areas Component of B.C.’s Land Use Strategy, Land Use Coordination Office, Victoria, 39 pp.

  • Prudham, S. (2007). Sustaining Sustained Yield: Class, Politics, and Post-war Forest Regulation in British Columbia. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 25: 258–283.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Schlager, E., and Ostrom, E. (1993). Property rights regimes and coastal fisheries: an empirical analysis. In Anderson, T. L., and Simmons, R. T. (eds.), The Political Economy of Customs and Culture: Informal Solutions to the Commons Problem. Rowman and Littlefield, Lanham, MD, pp. 13–41.

    Google Scholar 

  • Scott, J. C. (1985). Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance. Yale University Press, New Haven.

    Google Scholar 

  • Scott, J. C. (1998). Seeing Like a State. Yale University Press, New Haven.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sheppard, S. (2003). Knowing a Socially Sustainable Forest when you See One: Implications for Results-based Forestry. The Forestry Chronicle 79: 5865–875.

    Google Scholar 

  • Silva Forest Foundation. (2004). The Power of Community: Applying Ecosystem-based Conservation Planning Across Canada. Slocan Park, BC.

  • Silver, J. J., Heaslip, R., Pinkerton, E., Furman, K., Nephin, J., and Williamson, I. (2007). Co-Management as Adaptive Resistance to the Neo-liberal Governance Paradigm: Theoretical Considerations. Paper read to the Meeting of The Association of American Geographers, San Francisco.

  • Slocan Valley Community Forest Management Project. (1975). Final Report. Box 81, Winlaw, BC.

  • Smith, J. (1997). Bringing Ecoforestry to the BC Forest Service. Global Biodiversity Magazine, Canadian Museum of Nature.

  • St. Martin, K. (2001). Making Space for Community Resource Management in Fisheries. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 91: 1122–142.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Swyngedouw, E. (2005). Governance Innovation and the Citizen: The Janus Face of Governance-beyond-the-state. Urban Studies 42: 11991–2006.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Tobias, T. (2000). Chief Kerry’s Moose: A Guidebook to Land Use and Occupancy Mapping, Research Design and Data Collection. Union of BC Indian Chiefs and Ecotrust Canada, Vancouver, BC.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wilson, J. (2001). Experimentation on a Leash: Forest Land Use Planning in the 1990s. In Cashore, B., Hoberg, G., Howlet, M., Rayner, J., and Wilson, J. (eds.), In Search of Sustainability: British Columbia Forest Policy in the 1990s. University of British Columbia Press, Vancouver, pp. 31–60.

    Google Scholar 

  • Young, N., and Matthews, R. (2007). Resource Economies and Neoliberal Experimentation: The Reform of Industry and Community in Rural British Columbia. Area 39: 2176–185.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


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.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Evelyn Pinkerton.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

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).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: