By James Langston, UBC lecturer and Master of International Forestry
We are a team of international scientists and educators partnering with Quesnel’s Forestry Initiatives Program (FIP). Quesnel is, in many ways, central to the changes occurring in BC.
We arrived to UBC in 2018, to increase the Faculty of Forestry’s international research portfolio. Prior to moving to BC, we worked across the tropics, out of northern Australia. Our science involves maintaining long-term partnerships with people aspiring to address challenges in their landscapes. These are learning landscapes – where people exchange ideas, where they learn from each other.
For three years, Quesnel’s FIP has welcomed us. They’ve hosted field schools for our Master of International Forestry students, researchers, and contributed to shaping our research questions both in BC and elsewhere (Indonesia, Cameroon etc.).
The FIP is a hub of exchange: we have developed rich curiosity-inspired relationships. Erin Robinson, alongside her FIP partners, with the support of Quesnel’s city council, champion exchange.
The FIP is meant to “address the multiple challenges facing our community.” Thanks to federal and provincial government granting agencies, we supported partnerships of local and international researchers to work with the FIP to help identify what these challenges are, what goals might exist, and figure out how change might happen.
Forests are central to sustainable development. But disagreements over how to manage, conserve, or benefit from forests abound. The challenges facing Quesnel today come from a long history, where forests were wrestled away from First Nations peoples. Values were determined and managed for by settler experts in western science, industry, and colonial governments. The FIP is re-examining these relationships. They are helping to set a more inclusive process by which forests are valued, how forestry is judged and operates.
We are encouraged by the FIP because it promotes a healthy discussion regarding the way people see and manage forests. Our diversity of students, many from the tropics, emerge with new perspectives after spending time in the Quesnel landscape. They arrive to Quesnel with pre-conceptions and questions. History teaches us that new exchanges stimulate new ways of thinking. We aim to mobilize lessons about how these exchanges lead to new insights and momentum for change.
Great divides are polluting politics and the decision-making over “who gets what.” The FIP hopes their efforts improve the public discourse around forestry. We share that hope and are seeking the evidence. The world needs more hubs of exchange so we can collectively make the changes necessary for resilient, sustainable and prosperous forest communities.