Harry William Nelson

Associate Professor

Relevant Thesis-Based Degree Programs


Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision

Dissertations completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest dissertations.

Kwakwa̱ka̱’wakw–forests relationships : the forests are our cupboards; the ocean is our refrigerator (2023)

This research is centred on people-forest relationships that describe social aspects of forests’ significance to communities within the Kwakwa̱ka̱’wakw (the Kwak̓wala-speaking peoples) on the mid-coast of present-day British Columbia, Canada. Forests have always surrounded the Ḵwiḵwa̱sut’inux̱w Ha̱xwa’mis. As a result, forests are integral to peoplehood through oral histories, Indigenous stories, Indigenous language, forest practices, life cycles, and place-based Indigenous knowledge. The peoplehood model was considered compatible with the relationality found in the people-forest relationships that tie individual people to their respective communities and to wildlife, fish, plants, forests, and oceans. This research was developed using Indigenous methodologies and participatory action research. Consequently, the research questions, topics, and analysis methods were adjusted following group evaluation with community sessions led by myself. Four stand-alone empirical chapters were chosen to complement each other about people-forest relationships and Indigenous stories, Indigenous women’s identities, and forest resources the Ḵwiḵwa̱sut’inux̱w Ha̱xwa’mis depend on, including traditional foods and western red cedar. Even though the Ḵwiḵwa̱sut’inux̱w Ha̱xwa’mis are forced to deal with modern-day issues, we wish to maintain and reassert our identities based on an ancient culture. The findings were, most of all, that the forest-people relationships are about being and remaining in place, by a continuous occupation of the area, with no intention of leaving. The Ḵwiḵwa̱sut’inux̱w Ha̱xwa’mis origin story highlights a living history and the significance of western red cedar to T̓seḵa̱me’, a founding ancestor of the Kwiḵwa̱sut’inux̱w. Importantly, traditional foods were identified as an essential part of the culture that transcends nutritional values; these foods are expected to continue being served at ceremonies despite cumulative barriers to access. There are concerns from the community that our identities have been obscured, our forest practices have been limited, and current policies do not safeguard essential forest resources, including traditional foods and western red cedar. Regardless, families want children to know our cultural heritage (including Indigenous stories, dances, songs, and place names), travel the territories, and learn the Indigenous language, Kwak̓wala. Community-led resurgence projects are underway.

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Economic decision making under uncertainty for wildfire fuels mitigation (2022)

Increases in wildfire suppression cost expenditures, an upward trend in burned area, increasing damages and evacuations, along with research pointing to a worsening trend in all of these areas as a result of climate change is motivating research into methods to limit the consequences of wildfire. My research is chiefly concerned with the use of economic tools to identify the best use of resources when evaluating fuel mitigation efforts both from a project perspective and at the landscape level. Using tools from Extreme Value Theory, I show that the distribution of wildfire costs is not likely to follow a normal distribution and instead is more likely drawn from fat-tailed distributions. This distribution implies that conventional tools of economic analysis, in particular, cost-benefit and cost-effectiveness analysis are not applicable and, if economic tools are to be applied, alternative approaches need to be developed. I present an alternative approach for analyzing individual projects, modeled after banking stress-tests, and apply it to four fuel-treatment case studies in the interior of British Columbia. This approach, called the Defensibility Heuristic, makes use of frontline experience (tacit knowledge), has few data and modeling requirements, and has the potential to quickly rank projects within a government budget and planning cycle that are most likely to protect the most important values. Following the development of this approach for picking fuel treatments in the short run, a tool for making decisions about longer-term forest management concerned with wildfire management is considered. This tool is community-centric as opposed to taking a provincial or federal perspective. Different approaches to ranking outcomes from decision theory were considered in the face of wildfire events that were drawn from a Power Law distribution. The existing decision rules were found wanting and I developed a rule called a Trauma Exposure. This decision rule was applied to the problem of setting annual harvest volumes to show that setting the harvest volume slightly below maximum sustained yield and organizing forest stands into a patchwork is likely to result in a more stable harvest volume over the long run.

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Towards sustainable outcomes? an evaluation of alternative water governance arrangements in British Columbia (2021)

In response to a need for enhanced water governance, water institution reforms are taking place around the world. Common among these reforms is a shift from monocentric to polycentric governance systems, bridging multiple scales of stakeholders through a mix of institutional arrangements. Benefits of a polycentric approach are commonly associated with higher performance in diverse contexts through better adaption to changing conditions, customized rules that meet local needs and a sense of trust amongst stakeholders. However, even though water reforms identify probable benefits from a polycentric approach, the ability to predict which type of institutional arrangement is likely to yield desired outcomes remains a challenge. This study applies the institutional resource regime framework and transaction cost economics to evaluate the current water regime in British Columbia and identify if an alternative water governance arrangement can promote sustainable outcomes through minimized transaction costs. First, I perform an assessment of the water regime in British Columbia from 1859 to 2016 to identify how and why institutions have changed over time. Second, I compare the perception of transaction costs associated with a watershed agency and a regional district alternative arrangement to the current system to identify if an alternative arrangement can improve coherence through more efficient organizational structures. Third, I assess the perceived transaction costs for a watershed arrangement from respondents in the Okanagan region compared the rest of the province. Data were collected through document analysis and 36 surveys and 5 semi-structured interviews with government officials. Results confirm a complex water regime in British Columbia. Transaction costs under both watershed agency and regional district alternative arrangements were perceived higher compared to the current system, in contrast to what the literature would suggest. In addition, perceived transaction costs do not significantly differ between respondents in the Okanagan region compared to the rest of the province suggesting no additional coherence associated with a watershed agency arrangement in the Okanagan basin. I conclude that the current system is evolving towards integration, but remains complex due to incomplete Aboriginal rights and title to water, jurisdictional and organizational fragmentation and undefined water yield quotas and water quotas.

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How corporate social responsibility affects firms' strategic decisions: Examining links among corporate social responsibility, vertical integration, and new product introductions (2018)

Firms seek competitive advantages either through cost leadership or product differentiation strategies. Cost leadership may be achieved by shifting away from vertical integration (VI) to vertical de-integration through outsourcing that often results in significant cost and flexibility gains. Product differentiation can be achieved through new product introductions (NPI) that can help firm enter new markets and meet changing consumer needs. However, modern firms not only face pressure to be competitive, but also to be socially responsible. As firms increasingly incorporate corporate social responsibility (CSR) in their operations, a key question emerges about the effect of CSR on fundamental strategic decisions related to vertical integration (VI) and new product introductions (NPI). The primary aim of this thesis is to address this question. Toward that end, the thesis is divided into three main sections described below.First, it takes stock of the extant literature on VI, especially because this construct has grown in numerous disparate directions that has led not only to conceptual ambiguity, but also rendered a bewildering array of empirical findings. The first section of this thesis, therefore, synthesizes VI literature before analyzing the effect of CSR on VI. In contrast, NPI -the other construct used in this thesis- is relatively well understood and hence the NPI based empirical section does not need a theoretical precursor. The second section comprises an examination of the link between CSR and VI. Consistent with transaction costs economics theory, panel data regression results show that higher CSR performance is associated to higher VI. In other words, socially responsible firms tend to vertically integrate, i.e., outsource less. The third section comprises the analysis of the link between CSR engagement and NPI. In this section, I consider CSR as a multidimensional construct that bundles multiple and even dissimilar activities together. Drawing on the knowledge based view of the firm, panel data regression results show that while discretionary activities concerning environmental and social engagement (labeled as informal CSR) directly and positively affect the rate of NPI, compliance-oriented corporate governance activities (labeled as formal CSR) do not directly affect the rate of NPI.

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The influence of markets and culture on the use of native forests in the south of Chile (2017)

Chile´s native forests are one of the world´s 25 priority conservation ecoregions due to their high levels of endemism. These forests have been strongly disturbed by human activities in the past, which has resulted in high levels of deforestation and forest degradation. In Chile, 70% of forests are in private lands, so their fate depends on landowners´ decisions. Current knowledge about factors influencing these decisions is limited. In this research I analyzed (a) the cause-effect relationship between firewood production and deforestation/forest degradation, (b) the underlying drivers of timber extraction and livestock browsing, and their joint pressure on forests, and (c) the influence of culture on the use of forests. 315 surveys with landowners were performed in the Los Rios Region in two field campaigns, one in 2012 (pre-sampling) and the other in 2013 (sampling). I also carried out 173 economic games to measure both time and risk behaviors. I found that the decision to produce commercial firewood depends on native forest cover (%), the proportion of off-farm income (%), and an additional eight variables, which create contexts where firewood is either a permanent component of the productive system, or only a secondary activity (non-permanent). Firewood production was not found to be the primary driver of deforestation and only in some specific contexts there was evidence that it could be related to forest degradation. Moreover, livestock over-browsing has a higher impact on forests than timber extraction. While forest overharvesting is largely restricted to very specific contexts of low schooling and availability of off-farm incomes, and can present inter-annual fluctuations, forest over-browsing is a permanent structural driver. The total pressure on forests not only depends on farm size, but also on the balance between different land uses. More balanced farms show a lower pressure on forests. From a cultural standpoint, the three cultural groups that were compared show differences in terms of time and risk behaviors, which in turn influence the use of forests. Time and risk behaviors affect consumption rates (timber extraction) and investments in new tree plantations, which can replace native forests in supplying markets, preventing further degradation.

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Growing Deer Roots: Learning from the Essipit's Culturally Adapted Model of Aboriginal Forestry (2014)

Aboriginal peoples are seeking sustainable ways to steward and develop forests. Sustainable forestry is central to Aboriginal life and culture. Research indicates that the industrial forestry model has failed to address their socio-economic needs. To date, Aboriginal involvement in forestry is characterized by a limited economic role in forest development, limited influence over forest management, and an inability to integrate Aboriginal culture and values.The case study of Essipit (Quebec, Canada) provides new insight on how Aboriginal communities can contribute to sustainable forestry. Growing deep roots means using a culturally adapted model of forestry that is consistent with Aboriginal culture and values, which is therefore more likely to support long-term social change and economic growth. To ensure reliability and validity, this research employed four data gathering techniques: observation, documentation, interviews and focus-groups. Results identify the entrepreneurship framework that led to the success of Aboriginal forest enterprises in Essipit, the level of authority held by Essipit over forest governance, and Essipit objectives for forest-based development. Therefore, this thesis provides a framework that aims to support Aboriginal forest development in theory and practice.Despite constraints, such as timber access, capacity and institutions, Essipit was successful in engaging in forestry. Acquiring exclusive commercial rights to harvest wildlife became a key strategy that allowed Essipit to address social needs and create leverage for future forest-based activities. Essipit innovated in forest governance: they created a partnership with the forest company Boisaco and, thus, gained authority over forest management decisions at the operational level. Results indicate that the profitability motives of the forest industry areiiiinsufficient, because Essipit has other objectives and priorities. The forest industry looks primarily at the tree, while Essipit looks at everything that surrounds and supports it.This research emphasizes the importance of developing a model that will outlast changes in government or industry. A forestry model that has deep roots is integrated into the community and the culture. It can sustain these types of changes and keep growing. Without this understanding of Aboriginal experiences, knowledge and objectives, local initiatives and government policies will remain uninformed and, potentially, fail.

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Master's Student Supervision

Theses completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest theses.

Native forest owners' perceptions and adaptation to climate change in the Los Lagos region, southern Chile (2022)

Climate change is seriously affecting agriculture and forests, and the productive systems rooted in them. Adaptation has been encouraged, however, to respond to the necessities of actors involved, local perspectives must be considered. In southern Chile, an important part of the population relies widely on agroforestry, however, little is known on how they perceive climate change and their decisions around adaptation. This study aimed to analyze how forest owners are perceiving and taking actions to adapt to climate change, and to identify the factors influencing the behaviour around this in the Los Lagos region, Chile. To accomplish this, 59 interviews were conducted in-person, where forest owners’ socioeconomic information and climate change experiences (i.e. perceptions, impacts perceived and adaption actions implemented) were gathered.The results showed that forest owners are perceiving climatic changes in the region through increases in temperatures and decreases in precipitation and water availability. They also reported impacts on the production systems, especially those related to grasslands and drinkable water. This has led to seeing climate change as a threat to the future. From this, adaptation actions have been implemented, mainly around water obtention. Despite this, roughly half of forest owners have adapted. To understand what factors were shaping this behaviour, and considering that perception and adaptation were acting jointly, a bivariate statistical model was estimated. As a result, the variables affecting perception were gender and off-farm incomes. In particular, female-head households were more inclined to see climatic variabilities as a risk, while off-farm incomes reduced this perception. At the same time, adaptation, was negatively influenced by off-farm incomes, that is, the less the owners depended on the farm, the less adaptation was implemented. Conversely, impacts influenced positively adaptation as the higher impacts perceived, the more adjustment was deployed on the farm. Overall, the variables affecting the adaptation process were more related to subjective experiences and to those variables that mediated the perspective of risk facing climate change, than to structural factors.

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Barriers and opportunities for wildfire risk reduction treatments in the Cariboo region of British Columbia (2021)

The state of wildfire risk and occurrence in Canada poses challenges for forests inBritish Columbia. These challenges are especially exigent for dry-belt forests in the province.In the Interior, Douglas-fir stands have long been neglected, with licensees across the regionfocused on salvage logging of lodgepole pine stands affected by mountain pine beetle. Withthe end of salvage logging in sight, Interior Douglas-fir stands will become an increasinglyimportant source of timber supply in the area. But these stands have stagnated. They areover-dense and at risk for catastrophic losses from wildfire or another insect or diseaseoutbreak.This exploratory research focuses on identifying policies or economic factors that arethe most constraining on forest managers in the region. To do so, qualitative case studyresearch methods involving semi-structured interviews are used. These interviews wereadministered to forest professionals in decision-making positions for various actors in theregion. Understanding the views of these decision-makers is one of the fundamental pieces ofmaking sense of the on-the-ground effects of forest or environmental policies or regulations.Then, using a framework of barriers to climate change adaptation developed byEkstrom, Moser, and Torn (2011), potential barriers to solutions are discovered. Finally, thepotential adaptation of a US tool called “stewardship contracting” to address issues,constraints, or barriers is analyzed.

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Debating nature: science and decision-making in pacific salmon hatcheries (2019)

The presence of hatcheries in the management of Pacific salmon in North America, in the fact they constitute a literal interface between humans and nature, is unique in the species that humans actively manage for food or other benefit. This, in tandem with the scientific criticism they face through salmon management literature, situate hatcheries as an opportune subject for the study of decision-making about science in natural resource management or conservation settings. This thesis explores the broader question of how decisions are made regarding new science in Pacific Salmon hatcheries through the study of two separate contexts at two different scales. The first research chapter addresses the question: how have hatcheries and the scientific research that is focused on them been discussed in the public sphere? This is achieved through a newspaper content analysis with a focus on the examination of framing mechanisms in the words of the journalists and those they feature. This chapter reveals that hatcheries are portrayed and debated based on the benefits they provide, but also on the scientific and economic concerns that people have about them. These risks and benefits were directly pitted against each other in a media debate regarding a question involving interpretation of the United States Endangered Species Act, which involved brought much of the scientific research about hatcheries into the public sphere. The second research chapter focuses in at a much finer scale, on the hatchery management system on Canada's west coast. In this chapter, perspectives on selective breeding as a tool in broodstock management are explored through interviews with individuals working for hatcheries and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans - Canada's salmon management authority. This chapter reveals that, though individuals hold various views about the merit and acceptability of selective breeding, there is a unanimous desire within the sample of hatchery management staff to pursue decisions that advance the naturalness of hatchery fish and overall salmon populations. Together, these inquiries contribute to a fuller understanding of the social dynamics involved in decision-making about science in the management of Pacific salmon hatcheries.

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Assessing the impact of policies and regulations on log supply: A British Columbia case study (2016)

British Columbia is one of the major log producers in Canada and is somewhat unique compared to the rest of the world since the majority of its forests are publicly owned. Log supply is the key underlying economic driver in the performance of British Columbia’s wood-products industry. Despite its importance, little work has been done recently to analyze it. Moreover, there have been significant changes in markets and policies in the past decade that needs to be addressed in these analysis. This research investigates the impacts of government policies and market changes on British Columbia`s log supply. The objectives of this research are (1) to develop a log supply model for British Columbia regions (coast and interior) and (2) to identify relationships between government and market factors and log supply. Monthly time-series data from 2000 to 2013 were used to develop regional regression models for log supply. These models take into account differences in log quality as well as log prices, cost of labour, seasonality, and policy. The methodology used in this research is based on developing simultaneous equations models where the price is endogenously determined at the intersection of the demand and supply models. Two Stage Least Square (2SLS) method is used to estimate the models. The results showed that log supply is elastic in the coast region and inelastic in the interior. Own price elasticity was significant in all regions with respect to different grades except for the low grade logs in the interior. Changes in policy impacted the log supply and harvest levels in BC. These changes in the policy included the elimination of minimum harvest levels and introducing take or pay policy. Costs and other market factors such as wage and log export price impacted log supply but the effect differs based on the region and log quality. Seasonality is the other factor impacting log supply in all regions and for all log types.

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Assessing the keys and barriers to success in the value-added wood product manufacturing sector: a multiple-case study analysis of small and medium-sized enterprises (2013)

Small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in the value-added forest products sector play an important role, both socially and economically, in forest dependent communities across Canada, yet the long-touted potential of the sector has not been attained. An assessment of the success factors as well as the barriers to success for SMEs operating in the value-added forest products sector is a key step in ensuring that firms operating in the sector, as well as policy makers at various levels of government are better informed. This will allow the firms in the sector to leverage their strengths and address their weaknesses in order to have a strong contingent of successful value-added forest product SMEs vital to sustaining community wealth. The study is conducted through an in-depth examination of four SMEs in the value-added wood products sector in British Columbia. The four cases represent different types of businesses with varying levels of performance. The results of the study indicate that management skills, access to skilled labour, access to fibre supply, and access to financial capital are fundamental success factors. The entrepreneurs and industry experts involved in the study suggest that for British Columbia’s value-added forest products sector to prosper, the development of management skills and skilled labour requires greater attention. Consequently, increases in the level of investment in skilled labour training and management skill development options that are easily accessible to entrepreneurs in rural communities, in conjunction with the provision of timber at a scale and means that is more suited to small and medium-sized value-added firms were suggested as means to reduce barriers to success faced by SMEs in the value-added sector.

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Barriers and drivers to sustainability in small to medium sized businesses in the value added wood sector (2012)

There is currently very limited research on how firms incorporate sustainability into their business strategies and practices in the secondary wood industry. There is equally limited research on how small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) approach sustainability; most of the research on sustainability in business attempts to paint an overall picture of issues for large multinational enterprises (MNEs), failing to recognize issues related to SMEs. The research generalizes how large firms define and implement sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) strategies without taking into account that an SME may not respond in the same way. One of the research needs is to understand how SMEs more generally define sustainability and the barriers and drivers for sustainability. One important research outcome from investigating sustainability in the secondary wood industry is more understanding of how SMEs respond to sustainability and tools and strategies for sustainability in this important business sector. This research is a survey-based project looking at barriers and drivers to sustainability in small to medium sized businesses in the value-added wood sector in Canada. Results indicated that the barriers and drivers for SMEs are similar to those for MNEs and are consistent with much of the literature. The top drivers for this sector were: mission of the company, environmental concern, competitive advantage and vision of the founder and the top barriers were cost, and time. The least important barrier was no known business benefit suggesting that SMEs have begun to understand the value of implement responsible business practices. Results suggest that further research be conducted in this field to gain a better understanding on how to help SMEs implement more sustainable business practices. The findings in this study also suggest ways in which to better survey the SME sector in the future.

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Climate Change: Assessing the Adaptive Capacity of Community Forests (2012)

Community Forests Organizations (CFOs) have been developed in British Columbia (BC) to manage forests according to the needs and desires of local communities and First Nations in forest dependent regions, in order to maximise the economic, social and environmental benefits of forestry. The effects of climate change in many of these regions are expected to be significant, and likely to have a detrimental effect on the health of the forests and communities. However, there are practical steps that CFOs can take which may improve their ability to cope with future conditions such as planting different species, practicing different silvicultural techniques and increasing monitoring and observation of the forest . This study is concerned with what CFOs need to have in place to take these steps. 'Adaptive capacity' is a term used to describe an ability to adjust to change. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (Adger et al. 2007), adaptive capacity depends upon access to natural, physical, economic, human and social capital, as well as enabling guiding values. This study aims to measure and describe each of the components of adaptive capacity in the CFOs in order to ascertain which of these factors are present in more adaptive organisations and may reveal something about the process of adaptation. Describing the nature of adaptive capacity in CFOs could inform policy development in climate change adaptation by both assessing what current capabilities exist in the sector and suggesting potential areas for development.

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