Graduation Date

Summer 2021

Document Type



Master of Science degree with a major in Natural Resources, option Forestry, Watershed, & Wildland Sciences

Committee Chair Name

Dr. Erin C. Kelly

Committee Chair Affiliation

HSU Faculty or Staff

Second Committee Member Name

Dr. Laurie Richmond

Second Committee Member Affiliation

HSU Faculty or Staff

Third Committee Member Name

Dr. Mark Adams

Third Committee Member Affiliation

Community Member or Outside Professional

Subject Categories

Natural Resources


Once built around natural resource extractive industries, rural communities’ economies are changing as the United States is transitioning away from its industrial past. While much research has focused on rural economic shifts from natural resource production toward amenity-driven economies (Morzillo et al., 2015; Winkler et al, 2007), less research has explored the economic and demographic trends in areas pursuing new modes of production. This two-part study focuses on an understudied region with historic ties to timber in dry mixed-conifer forests, much of which are under federal land management. With few natural amenity draws, the region has largely maintained production-based sectors. Chapter One spatially maps an economic and demographic inventory of 24 northeastern California and eastern Oregon counties, then provides an interpretive framework to characterize production transitions across counties. This analysis helps clarify how the intersection of geographic location and land ownership are associated with the continuation of natural resource sectors, or the pursuit of new modes of production. Chapter Two is composed of two case studies in two former timber mill towns, both with U.S. Forest Service supervisor offices, that had pursued different economic paths, one with data centers (Prineville, Oregon) and the other with prisons (Susanville, California). These cases engage residents through 37 semi-structured interviews to document each community’s post-mill transition, community well-being, governance, economic strengths and weaknesses, and linkages to the remnant timber industry and public lands. Prineville’s data centers provided new economic opportunity, though were divergent from the town’s historic economic and community identity, which was rooted in timber and ranching. The city and county government worked closely together and with public land management agencies through formal collaboratives that focused on economic and ecosystem benefits. Susanville’s early turn to a prison sector offered few economic prospects and has had unanticipated negative impacts on community well-being. The city and county governments work with public land management agencies separately, relying on non-governmental organizations to pursue restoration, conservation, and economic opportunities. This study contributes to the small pool of literature on production as an economic transition and provides contextual insight into economic transitions and natural resource governance within the American West.


For a complementary study on ranching and forestry in Susanville, California, and Prineville, Oregon, see Hailee Nolte's 2021 thesis "Alone on the Range? Rangeland Stakeholder Perceptions of Public Lands, Community Change, and Maintaining Rural Livelihoods".

Citation Style



Thesis/Project Location