Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Scales of Sovereignty: The Search for Watershed Democracy in the Klamath Basin
by Sarna-Wojcicki, Daniel Reid, Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley, 2015, 372; 3733338
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation examines the politics of knowledge in collaborative watershed governance institutions of the Klamath River Basin of Northern California and Southern Oregon. The waters of the Klamath are shared between farmers, fisherfolk, indigenous communities, hydro-electric facilities and one of the most biologically diverse eco-regions in the United States. Since 1986, the watershed has provided the primary spatial unit for resolving resource conflict by coordinating agency and citizen science, guiding integrated resource management and cultivating a shared sense of place and belonging among Klamath watershed inhabitants. For nearly three decades, the Klamath Basin has served as a laboratory for experiments in “watershed democracy”- a form of hydrologically-grounded political association that attempts to facilitate the direct participation of all watershed inhabitants in knowledge production, deliberation and collective action at the watershed scale. Through the idiom of watershed democracy, I connect empirical research on the outcomes of nearly three decades of community-based natural resource management in the Klamath with theoretical debates waged over the last century and a half regarding the question of scale in environmental science, democratic governance and natural resource management.

In this dissertation, I analyze the watershed as a scale of knowledge production, a site of democratic deliberation and a unit of environmental governance. I investigate whether the watershed is the most appropriate socio- spatial unit for representing people and place in the Klamath, paying particular attention to the impact of collaborative watershed governance arenas on the ability of Karuk Tribal members to participate in knowledge-production and decision- making for natural resource management in their ancestral territory in northern California.

Through participatory research with the Karuk Tribe’s Department of Natural Resources, participant observation, document analysis and interviews with Federal, State, Tribal and local agency scientists and representatives, I follow knowledge and policy-making processes across a diverse range of institutions engaged in Klamath watershed governance. Combining participatory research and participant observation with theoretical insights from political ecology, science and technology studies (STS) and indigenous studies scholarship, I evaluate the processes and outcomes of collaborative watershed-based governance according to its impacts on local watershed ecosystems and communities. Drawing on the theoretical framework of “co-production”, I analyze the mutually constitutive relations between watershed science, watershed governance institutions, the materialities of Klamath watershed-ecosystems and the distributions of resource benefits and burdens in Klamath communities. I follow Klamath experiments in watershed democracy negotiate the basic terms of political life such as property, territory, sovereignty and the public good, as well as the material conditions and flows of watershed resources and the patterns of access to, ownership in and distribution of these resources.

While the Klamath experiements in collaborative environmental governance at the watershed scale have opened up oppportunities for Karuk representatives to participate in knowledge production and decision-making, the watershed scale has itself constrained the focus of integrated resource management, limiting the kinds of knowledge that can pattern as reliable and the types of restoration and management projects that can issue from Klamath collaborative governance forums. I demonstrate how Karuk representatives have both leveraged and critiqued the watershed as a way of conceptualizing Klamath watershed-ecological processes and as a socio-spatial unit for approaching ecological restoration and cultural revitalization in their ancestral territory. Watershed science and watershed governance forums were sometimes leveraged by Karuk representatives to substantiate Karuk sovereignty and resource rights and at times rejected for not being able to convey distinct Karuk epistemologies, ontologies and cosmologies. I demonstrate how collaborative watershed management forums have struggled to render different types of indigenous, local and scientific knowledge commensurable and have instead provoked debates about how to produce knowledge about nature in ways that are appropriate for the local community and its ecosystems.

I draw attention to the cultural politics of scale to critique watershed-centric management and search for alternative ways of representing the multiple scales through which Klamath inhabitants understand and value nature. I compare watershed-based governance with two other emerging scales of democratic resource governance- firesheds and foodsheds- in their abilities to bring together diverse forms of environmental knowledge around multiple nested scales of social and ecological processes. Firesheds are emerging areas of community-based fire management patterned according to the way fire burns across the western Klamath landscape. Foodsheds are another emerging form of community-based resource governance taking shape in the Klamath around the spatial and temporal characteristics of food resources and their associated management practices in forest ecosystems. Comparing watersheds, firesheds and foodsheds opens up the question of scale in collaborative environmental governance by highlighting tensions among different ways of producing knowledge, managing resources and acting collectively at different bioregional scales in the Klamath.

Against watershed-centric approaches to ecological democracy, I argue for deliberative multi-scalar approaches to implementing collaborative environmental governance, cultural revitalization and watershed-ecosystem restoration in the Klamath. Multi-scalar perspectives can accommodate multiple ways of making knowledge while avoiding homogenizing diverse situated perspectives into a single way of seeing Klamath eco-cultural landscapes. I argue for “democratizing scale” in order to define an appropriate scalar framework for producing knowledge, representing human values and making decisions about the management of natural resources. Collaborative environmental governance requires an accompanying democratization of scale to accommodate the myriad ways of knowing nature and making a living in Klamath watershed-ecosystems. Scalar formations that are produced through deliberative democratic processes can provide more inclusive grounds than watersheds for democratic environmental governance and multispecies world-making.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Winickoff, David
Commitee: Fortmann, Louise, Ray, Isha
School: University of California, Berkeley
Department: Environmental Science, Policy, & Management
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-B 77/03(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Geography, Water Resource Management, Environmental Justice
Keywords: Indigenous studies, Political ecology, Science and technology studies, Watershed governance
Publication Number: 3733338
ISBN: 9781339216133
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