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Commoning in rural North America II: Pressures, limitations, and complications of commoning efforts

Type: Paper
Theme: The Changing North American Continent
Sponsor Groups: Rural Geography Specialty Group, Cultural and Political Ecology Specialty Group, Economic Geography Specialty Group
Poster #:
Day: 4/6/2020
Start / End Time: 4:00 PM / 5:00 PM (MDT)
Room: Virtual Track 11
Organizers: Katie Epstein, Jeff Martin, Jennie Durant
Chairs: Jeff Martin


The rural landscapes of North America have long been home to tensions between environmental complexity and dynamism on one hand and hegemonic forms of capitalist private property and state territory on the other (Stegner 1992; Sayre 2017). These tensions, and the subsequent challenges for environmental management and governance they engender, are heightened in the current moment by climate and land-use change, uneven economic development, and socio-political polarization. Such pressures have resulted in a growing number and diversity of adaptive responses, including experiments in landscape-scale planning, multi-actor governance, and community-based management (Armitage, et al. 2010; Charnley, et al. 2014). Using these conjunctures as a jumping-off point, this session brings insights from a growing body of geographical work on the commons and ‘commoning’ (Bollier 2016; Clement, et al. 2019; Nightingale 2019) to bear on contemporary challenges of land and natural resource governance.

Inspired by the particularities of the American West, a region with distinct yet broadly instructive geographical concerns (Robbins, et al. 2009; Jones, et al. 2019; Martin, et al. 2019), this session deploys a commoning framework to better make sense of and contribute to these diverse governance efforts, as well as to advance a theory of commoning through its application in this overwhelmingly libertarian and capitalist context. Regional socio-environmental challenges include questions of property, conservation, and livelihood (Fortmann 1990; Walker & Fortmann 2003; Brugger 2019); multiple-use claims to resources and land access (Ribot & Peluso 2003; Haggerty & Travis 2006; Behnke 2018); the challenges of living with nonhuman entities and processes that transgress human material and conceptual boundings (Philo & Wilbert 2000; Lorimer 2015; Wilson 2015); and the limitations of private property and regulatory frameworks amid a “patchwork” landscape shot through with dispossessions, economic competition, and socio-ecological complexity.


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Jeff Martin*, University of California - Berkeley, Sheep/land/politics: Tragedy and commoning in the American West 15 4:00 PM
Presenter Kelly Kay*, University of California, Los Angeles, “Private Land is Public Land:” Environmental Histories of Commoning and Recreation on US Private Industrial Timberlands 15 4:15 PM
Presenter Deseret Weeks*, University of California - Merced, Jeffrey Jenkins, University of California, Merced, Moving towards resilience? Complexity in adaptive co-management of the forest commons 15 4:30 PM
Presenter Robert Anderson*, University of Washington, Killing for the common good: the biopolitics of wolf management in Washington state 15 4:45 PM
Discussant Katie Epstein Montana State University 15 5:00 PM

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