Co-management as a Catalyst: Pathways to Post-colonial Forestry in the Klamath Basin, California

Hum Ecol Interdiscip J. 2016;44(5):533-546. doi: 10.1007/s10745-016-9851-8. Epub 2016 Oct 7.


Co-management frameworks are intended to facilitate sustainable resource management and more equitable power sharing between state agencies and Indigenous communities. However, there is significant debate about who benefits from co-management in practice. This article addresses two competing perspectives in the literature, which alternately portrays co-management as an instrument for co-optation or for transformation. Through a case study of co-management negotiations involving the Karuk Tribe and the U.S. Forest Service in the Klamath Basin of Northern California, this study examines how Indigenous communities use co-management to build greater equity in environmental decision-making, despite its limitations. The concept of pivot points is developed to describe how Indigenous communities like the Karuk Tribe are simultaneously following existing state policies and subverting them to shift federal forest management. The pivot point analytic demonstrates one mechanism by which communities are addressing Indigenous self-determination goals and colonial legacies through environmental policy and management.

Keywords: Co-management; Cultural and ecological restoration; Environmental governance; Forest policy; Indigenous knowledge; Karuk Tribe; Klamath River; Land management; Prescribed burning; Self-determination.