Knotty Questions

Reflections on the Booms and Busts of Forestry Research in British Columbia




forestry, railways, land policy, protest


Forest matters have exploded onto the public scene in British Columbia once again, even if they never really went anywhere after the turbulence of the War in the Woods. Struggles to protect old-growth forests and an industry push for access to these same forests are entangled with the exercise of Indigenous Jurisdiction, Rights, and Title to forest lands and a government focused on containing conflicts while remaining wedded to an extractive agenda. While a vibrant academic debate assessed past tensions in the woods until the early 2000s, there has been a noticeable downturn in forestry research since then.  This article assesses the contours of past academic debates on forestry and asks why researchers lost the plot in the forests.  The cool down of conflicts in the woods is one answer; the increasing focus on oil and gas is another.  Reflecting on past debates and changes in the political economy and coloniality of the forestry sector, I highlight past silences in the literature and the new dynamics in the forested landscapes of the province.  I do so by drawing on my collaborative research investigating the uneasy interweaving of so-called “private forest lands,” finance capital, and Indigenous Rights and Title on Vancouver Island. The hope is that this small intervention will be part of a bigger wave of research to come that will help to unpack the complicated political mosaic of British Columbia’s forestry sector.

Author Biography

Michael Ekers, University of Toronto

Michael Ekers is an associate professor in the Department of Human Geography at the University of Toronto, Scarborough. He has been researching the British Columbia forestry sector for more than fifteen years and before that worked in the reforestation sector for nearly a decade. This work is published mainly in geography and agrarian studies journals. He continues to be preoccupied by unpacking the legacies of the Esquimalt & Nanaimo land grants.