Humboldt Journal of Social Relations


This study explores perceptions of long-term residents regarding links between governance, landscape, and community change in the McKenzie River Valley (MRV) in western Oregon and provides a general assessment of factors affecting resilience and adaptive capacity. Residents interviewed indicated that dramatic changes driven by market competition, timber industry changes, increased regulation, and rural restructuring have occurred in both the landscape and community. The changes that have transpired have redefined the relationship between the community and the landscape, moving away from local dependence on timber harvests to an economy focused on tourism and other ecosystem services. In doing so the community has transitioned from one with a logging community identity to one that has begrudgingly become a retirement and vacation community. We found that the social-ecological system (SES) in the MRV is still in the midst of reorganization in the wake of the 1990s Timber Wars. As a result of low institutional capacity, the system is vulnerable to exogenous drivers of change. Using a modified version of Ostrom’s (2009) framework for SES analysis, this study recommends policymakers and policy entrepreneurs take three key steps to facilitate enhanced resilience and adaptive capacity: 1) support transboundary management strategies that transcend landownership classifications; 2) tighten system feedbacks to include more local influence; and 3) develop local multilayered institutions organized vertically and horizontally. Future research should explore the potential for collaborative forestry and stewardship contracting to enhance social-ecological resilience in this valley.

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