Narrating disturbance : risk, power, and Mountain Pine Beetles
Beginning in the mid 1990's, an outbreak of Mountain Pine Beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae) in northern Colorado affected over 3.4 million acres of primarily lodgepole pine forest. Mountain Pine Beetle are native to these forests, but the outbreak occurred at an unprecedented scope and scale, reflecting the legacy of forest management policies since the early days of European settlement and evoking new experiences and understandings of landscape in the resource-dependent region. Like much of the American West, this region is in the midst of a transition away from traditional extractive economies towards economies rooted in natural amenities and aesthetic landscape consumption. This transition is accompanied by demographic and cultural shifts, and has implications for the way that natural spaces are understood and ideas about what activities should orient people's relationships to the natural world. Across the disturbance affected area, three sites were selected to represent economic ideal types, ranging from high amenity resort destinations to small rural communities with strong roots in extraction. With data drawn from local newspapers, local and regional organizational publications, state and federal forest service documents and 26 interviews with subjects representing actor groups across the region, local narratives of environmental change were explored through the lens of green governmentality to understand how experiences of environmental change were contextualized by ongoing economic restructuring and cultural shifts. The meaning of the changing image of the landscape, the history of the timber industry in the state and competing narratives of industry decline, and the historic implications of forest management policies in disturbance-dependent forests are explored to shed light on the way that perceptions of landscape are anchored in complex social terrain and how nature can evoke new understandings of nature.
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