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Ways into the Forest: Place, Identity and Resource Access in California's Northern Sierra Nevada

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: London, Jonathan
Conference: Crossing Boundaries, the Seventh Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of Common Property
Location: Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Conf. Date: June 10-14
Date: 1998
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10535/926
Sector: Forestry
Social Organization
Region: North America
Subject(s): IASC
common pool resources--case studies
forest management
interest groups
coalitions
social organization
collective action
Abstract: "Recent analyses of property relations and land tenure have focused significant attention on the role of identity in mediating access to natural resources. The general formulation has been that people invest in identities as a means to gain or maintain resource access. By investing in identity I mean the attempt to emphasize or even construct certain attributes, whether family lineage, gender, or political affiliation, that legitimate a claim to certain resources. Writers such as Sarah Berry and Louise Fortmann have done some important work in this area applied to Western and South Africa as has our respondent, Nancy Peluso in Southeast Asia. "A small but growing body of literature is developing that explores the phenomenon of organizations in the rural American West using the identities rooted in notions of "place" to stake new claims on the surrounding natural resource base. Such articulations include: *place as epistemology: site-specific ecological and management knowledge *place as economic location: peripheral site of surplus extraction and primary resource dependence; *place as political location: exclusion from centralized management decisions and resource benefits; *place as ground zero: disproportionate impacts of resource management decisions. "I will argue that this linear and unidirectional equation: place-->identity-->resource access captures only some of the communities phenomenon, and that the relationships are in fact much more complicated. In particular this framework ignores: *place and identity are socially constructed at multiple scales; *place-based identities can restrict resource access; *problems of linking place and identity can impede resource access; *place and resource access can be used as means of identity formation. "This discussion will examine these four issues through two case studies, the Quincy Library Group and the Maidu Cultural and Development Group. Both organizations are non-governmental coalitions in California's Northern Sierra region attempting to gain increased representation in the management of federal forests in the area. Both the QLG and MCDG use the notion of 'place' and place-based identities as central means to accomplish their goals, yet they define and use it very differently and with varying degrees of success."

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