Doctor of Philosophy in Forestry (PhD)
Seeing the forest through the trees: collaborative climate-informed forest governance in Quesnel, British Columbia
Shout-out to #GreatSupervisor @SES_UBC who's supportive, dedicated and always encourages me to think critically. Thanks for your mentorship!
Dissertations completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest dissertations.
Worldwide, the increasing frequency and severity of ‘megafires’ poses a growing risk to people and ecosystems alike. While conservation scientists highlight the need to better understand how ecosystems are affected by and recover following megafires, Indigenous peoples are re-asserting jurisdiction to their lands and waters by leading the recovery and restoration of fire-affected territories. In this dissertation, conducted in collaboration with the Secwepemcúl̓ecw Restoration and Stewardship Society its member Secwépemc Nation communities, I examine how Secwépemc communities and territories are recovering from the 2017 ‘Elephant Hill’ megafire in British Columbia (BC), Canada, and the role of Indigenous-led restoration in restoring fire-adapted and fire-affected landscapes. Through semi-structured interviews, participant observation and plant community ecology methods, I document drivers and processes of both community-led and ecological recovery. Chapter 3 documents Secwépemc experiences of and engagement in wildfire management, with a focus on the collaborative governance of wildfire recovery. In describing the ‘joint leadership’ approach to recovery, this chapter identifies ‘lessons’ – successes, strengths, and challenges – to inform ongoing recovery and future wildfire response. Guided by the Secwépemc Declaration on the Understory, the fourth chapter analyzes the recovery of understory plant communities, with a focus on plants of high cultural significance to Secwépemc people. The high richness of culturally important plants recorded in areas that burned at low to moderate-severity, and in subalpine forests, highlights the strong potential of Indigenous fire stewardship to guide restoration and the ongoing eco-cultural importance of high-elevation landscapes to Secwépemc people. The fifth and final chapter describes Secwépemc Elder Ron Ignace’s concept of ‘walking on two legs’ (WO2L) to guide collaborative research and restoration in Secwepemcúl̓ecw and other Indigenous territories: the restoration of land by and to Indigenous peoples. These interdisciplinary and mixed-methods inquiries advance theories of collaborative environmental governance and the politics and production of knowledge, while responding to calls for a new megafire ecology to better understand the effects of large, high-severity wildfires on species, communities, and ecosystems. Collectively, this dissertation highlights the need to strengthen Indigenous leadership in wildfire management, and to support pathways of recovery that attend to the interconnections between land and community wellbeing.
Fire, people, and landscapes have dynamically coexisted through time in fire-dependent social-ecological systems, supported by diverse Indigenous stewardship. Today, however, fire is increasingly threatening peoples’ lives and livelihoods. This growing threat is partly attributed to an inadequate fire governance model that prioritizes fire control and fails to recognize the complexity of fire-dependent social-ecological systems across scales. In this dissertation, I take a collaborative and case study approach to explore these complex relationships in British Columbia (BC), Canada, at provincial and local scales over the last five centuries. By combining multiple methodologies, including historical document analysis, semi-structured expert interviews, place-based group interviews (forest walks), and tree-ring records, my dissertation demonstrates that the dominant fire governance model has cascading consequences for social and ecological systems through time. At the provincial scale, Indigenous stewardship was replaced by command-and-control fire governance in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, which was enforced by centralized government actors who continue to retain decision-making power over fire in BC. At the local scale, in a dry, Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menzeisii) dominated forest in the central interior of BC, the disruption of Indigenous stewardship in the 1870s altered the historical mixed-severity fire regime by eliminating highly frequent fire and landscape-level pyrodiversity. As a result, the dry forest today is more dense and likely to burn at uncharacteristic high severity, threatening enduring Indigenous values and livelihoods of adjacent communities. The 2017 fire season in BC was one such uncharacteristic season, which broke records for area burned (1.2 million hectares), number of people evacuated (~65,000), and fire suppression costs (~CAD$600 million) and prompted calls for a new paradigm of fire governance that includes Indigenous (and local) communities. To do so, however, this research demonstrates that Indigenous knowledge is uniquely situated within a place-based context, and it is imperative that decision-making power is redistributed to Indigenous peoples to ensure that context is respected. Ultimately, transformative change is needed to shift to a more equitable fire governance model that prioritizes proactive, Indigenous stewardship and ensures that resilience in a fire-dependent social-ecological system is defined and led by Indigenous peoples.
Identifying suitable approaches for designing and implementing participatory processes in ways that enhance the delivery of outcomes, including community access to forest and water benefits, remains a key societal challenge. Central to this challenge are complexities related to structuring the participation of diverse actors operating at different governance scales and with diverse objectives. Prior studies have recognized that local communities and Indigenous Peoples are most affected by policy actions, and thus should meaningfully participate in policy debates at the regional and national and international scales. Yet participatory processes across governance scales tend to favor the participation of powerful actors including government representatives while limiting the participation of local communities and Indigenous Peoples. This study examines the scalar and participatory aspect of resource governance through two study contexts – the World Conservation Congress 2016 and the Reciprocal Water Agreement in Bolivia. Using qualitative data collection methods including semi-structured interviews, participant observation and document analysis, I examined how longstanding and emerging institutions and institutional arrangements that seek to integrate the participation of diverse actors at the regional and national and international scales, shape local participation and access to resources benefits. I developed a typology of participation to consider the linkages between gradations of participation based on different levels of power and spaces where the participation is likely to occur. Across the two study contexts, findings suggest that both longstanding and emerging institutions and institutional arrangements have the tendency to reinforce prevailing power relations. This in turn results in unequal participation among actors. Additionally, findings highlight the implications of existing gaps in governance on perceptions among actors about participation in resource decision-making. Overall, this study makes visible how prevailing and uneven structures of power across governance scales shape dominant visions for resource governance and the nature of participation of local communities and Indigenous Peoples in resource decision-making. Finally, this study identifies key recommendations for ensuring that adequate participation of local actors are addressed in resource governance. These include participatory design of spaces with local or Indigenous leadership, coordinated policy actions across sectors with overlapping responsibilities and objectives and locally-sourced and managed financial support.
Theses completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest theses.
Despite their intrinsic interlinkages, climate change and biodiversity loss are often treated in siloes. The result is ineffective solutions at best, and adverse impacts for nature, climate, and people at worst. To bridge these gaps and deliver holistic, interdisciplinary solutions, Nature-based Solutions (NbS) have emerged as one approach, rapidly growing in popularity across research, policy, and practice. In this thesis, I examine the narratives and perceptions about NbS, and their implications for diverse actors, at various scales of governance. First, I present a narrative analysis using a discourse coalition approach, based on a document analysis and semi-structured interviews, to characterize the dominant narratives associated with NbS within international climate governance settings. Four key findings emerged: i) there are two core NbS narratives in international climate governance: Leveraging the power of nature (the dominant narrative, by NbS proponents) and Dangerous distraction (the alternative narrative, by NbS critics); ii) both narratives leverage the ambiguity of NbS to further their own arguments; ii) the discourse coalitions behind each respective narrative demonstrate that the NbS concept is reflecting and reproducing power asymmetries present in global climate governance; and iv) Dangerous distraction is rapidly changing the way NbS proponents understand and communicate the concept. Second, I present a case study approach to examine how conservation practitioners within the United States view the NbS concept and how social considerations are incorporated within applied conservation adaptation projects. Based on semi-structured interviews with conservation practitioners, I find that: i) conservation practitioners are increasingly recognizing the value of social considerations in conservation and identify a “tipping point” where the field is ready to embrace a movement towards decolonization; ii) despite this, longstanding structural barriers continue to inhibit the incorporation of social considerations; and iii) NbS is often understood as inherently interdisciplinary, but could only help foster holistic conservation approaches if its use is accompanied by structural changes. This research highlights the persistent impacts of the dominant, Western worldview on the conservation field of practice and environmental governance. Ultimately, I conclude that a single idea, like NbS, cannot bring about transformative change without paying attention to power, access, and justice.
The effects of climate change increasingly threaten forests; as a result, tree seed transfer actions - including controversial interventions like assisted migration (AM) - have adapted to facilitate trees’ adaptation to future climates. In this thesis, I explore seed transfer and AM governance in British Columbia (BC) using qualitative methods. First, I present a historical profile of BC’s seed transfer governance landscape, tracing decision-makers, policy instruments, rationales for seed transfer changes, risks, and knowledge used to inform policy from 1940 to 2019 based on document analysis and semi-structured interviews with key informants. Three insights relevant to understanding contemporary AM policies emerged from this analysis: i) through the opening of a policy window, a paradigmatic shift in seed transfer policy occurred with the establishment of a climate-based seed transfer system; ii) genetic knowledge produced within government ministries has been the dominant form of evidence used to inform seed transfer policy over time; and iii) governance processes, such as the disproportionately influential role of the forest industry in seed transfer policy-making, remained relatively unchanged in practice. Second, I offer a closer examination of the risks associated with and the types of knowledge that inform contemporary AM actions in BC. Based on 27 semi-structured interviews with government officials and forest industry professionals, I find that i) the type of knowledge deemed credible to inform contemporary AM decision-making is restricted to biophysical, model-based, scientific knowledge; ii) the primarily biophysical framing of AM shapes particular ways of understanding AM risks and solutions to address them; and iii) while decision-makers recognize the need to engage industry, First Nations and the general public, these groups are characterized as knowledge receivers. Interviewees also hold the view that the provision of science to different publics will prevent AM controversy. This research highlights the urgent need to meaningfully and respectfully include First Nations in AM decision-making. Overall, this thesis concludes that patrolling the types of AM expertise in informing seed transfer and AM actions serves to exclude other forms of knowledge and possibilities for shaping future forests.
Community-based conservation (CBC) approaches are complex governance spaces where diverse actors operating at multiple scales make decisions about and for local conservation. In this thesis, I explore CBC governance and decision-making in Kenya using multiple qualitative methods. First, I present a historical profile of Kenya’s national wildlife policy framework, identifying the events, ideologies and policies that led up to, and shaped the legal governance of CBC expression in Kenya today. This involved a comprehensive review of wildlife and conservation policy in Kenya from 1895-2016, focusing on a set of key governance attributes through the 120-year timeframe. Nine key informants participated in extended interviews to provide additional context and perspective to the 1200 pages of documents reviewed. Three insights relevant to understanding contemporary CBC in Kenya emerged from this analysis: (1) the continued expression of colonial relationships (2) the disproportional power of international conservation organizations (3) the tension between non-devolved national wildlife governance and the implementation of CBC. Second, to understand the expression of CBC at a local scale, I present analysis of governance structure, process, and the influence between scales of decision- making within the case study of Sera Community Conservancy in northern Kenya. During 13 months in the field, data was collected through: interviews (N=31), participant observation of meetings and decision-making settings (N=14), focus groups (N=4) with local elders and older women, as well as a review of over 400 pages of documents referencing governance process, NGO reports, and government legislation related to Sera Community Conservancy. Findings from this analysis are interpreted within a governance equity framework. Key insights include identifying the ways in which procedural equity is failing to function due to governance-related issues, including limiting the possibility of different knowledge holders to collaborate, systemic barriers to legitimate participation, and failure of transparent and effective communication. Overall, this thesis concludes that despite CBC’s objective of locally-informed decision making, local voices rarely influence outcomes at any scale of decision-making, while conservation NGOs disproportionally determine outcomes and priorities. This governance asymmetry constrains the value and undermines the legitimacy of local and indigenous knowledge, values, and practices within formal conservation in Kenya.
Collaborative planning in natural resource management involves a number of non-state actors and different institutions to make decisions that fall under the realm of governance. However, legitimacy, a quality considered necessary in successful governance, has not been thoroughly investigated empirically. This research examines the perceived importance of three different dimensions of legitimacy—representativeness, meaningfulness, and effectiveness—by actors in the Great Bear Rainforest (GBR) decision-making process and the perceived role of three institutions—shadow networks, bridging organizations, and boundary objects—in relation to the legitimacy of the GBR plan. Based on semi-structured interviews (N=17), this research provides an empirical investigation of the nuances of legitimacy in collaborative natural resource planning and the institutions involved in that planning from the perspective of those involved or otherwise affected by the GBR decision-making process. The results illustrate the importance of representing the different participants’ interests and values in the final outcome, trustworthy relationships to build accountability and ensure commitments, strategically using representation to ensure a fair and meaningful decision-making process, and using small groups of capable negotiators to ensure the different values and interests are included at the different levels of decision-making. These observations highlight the importance of not just representation, but meaningful engagement, of actors in negotiating processes. They also emphasize the importance of shadow networks for brainstorming alternative solutions and creating personal relationships; of bridging organizations to effectively represent and coordinate the interests of a collective of actors that do not always have the same goals; and of boundary objects to reflect the interests and values of actors, thereby ensuring effectiveness through commitment to implementation. Errata available at: http://hdl.handle.net/2429/70674