Forests, Beetles, and Climates in British Columbia's Central Interior: Historical Geographies of Paradigm Change in Forest Science and Management, 1945 - Present

Thumbnail Image
Earley, Sinead
Historical Geography , Forestry , British Columbia , Ecosystem , Climate Change , Paradigm , Relational Ontologies
This dissertation explores forest science and management issues in the Central Interior of British Columbia through a historical-geographical lens. I gather evidence that illustrates the combined socio-ecological nature of forest loss, degradation and industrial (i.e., timber supply) crises in the province, and use the most recent mountain pine beetle outbreak as an exposition of several managerial failings. Contra ahistorical and apolitical approaches to resource management, I show how the politics of nature have been at play over the last seventy-three years (1945-present), and make the case that current landscapes can be read as material histories of past management decisions. As a case study, I focus on the Thompson Rivers Forest District in traditional Secwépemc territory as an ideal place to investigate how forest values have changed over time, and employ a mixed-methodological approach including qualitative interviews, data collected via public consultation, archival research, and review of government documents. I suggest several findings based on my research. I propose that BC’s forest management history since WWII is characterized by three paradigms: (1) maximum sustainable yield forestry; (2) ecosystem-based management; and (3) an in-the-making management regime in the era of anthropogenic climate change. I document how different scientific models have been used to legitimate sustainable management practices in different time periods, but argue that the appropriation of nature and the capitalist imperative have remained entrenched as the core drivers of management decisions. This has led to the (re)production of anthropocentric cultures of management even as new ecological monikers have been employed by industry and government in the name of sustainability. The research highlights major historical shifts in management that can be used to inform current transitions within the context of climate change and uncertain, unpredictable forest dynamics. Forest history, politics, philosophy and policy are fused in this project, generating cross-disciplinary geographical scholarship that is useful within contemporary resource management and policy decisions.
External DOI