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The Politics of Place: Understanding Meaning, Common Ground, and Political Difference on the Rocky Mountain Front

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A major challenge of forest policy and management is effectively understanding different people's viewpoints on natural resource use and conservation, and how those viewpoints contribute to conflict and conflict resolution. In response to this challenge, the concept of place is gaining currency in natural resource research. The study of place promises an integrative approach to understanding people's relationships with particular areas. Realizing the potential of place research to inform forest policy and management means conceptualizing place as an arena of shared and contested meanings. A politics of place is attentive to different and potentially conflicting meanings, and how senses of place may be connected to larger political struggles. This study examines people's images, values, and interests with respect to the Rocky Mountain Front in Montana. In this case study, discourse about placenames provided a window into the politics of place. Results illustrate the ways in which place meanings are connected to people's ideas about property, conservation, and governance. Knowledge of the politics of place can inform forest policy and management and contribute to a more sophisticated understanding of natural resource conflict and the potential effectiveness of decision-making processes. FOR. SCI. 49(6):855–866.

Keywords: Natural resource social science; environmental discourse; environmental management; forest; forest management; forest planning; forest resources; forestry; forestry research; forestry science; natural resource management; natural resource policy; natural resources; sense of place

Document Type: Miscellaneous

Affiliations: 1: Acting Director Wilderness Institute, College of Forestry and Conservation, University of Montana, Missoula, MT, 59812, Phone: 406-243-6934; Fax: 406-243-4845 2: Chair Department of Society and Conservation, College of Forestry and Conservation, University of Montana, Missoula, MT, 59812, Phone: 406–243-5184 3: Professor Department of Society and Conservation, College of Forestry and Conservation, and Director Bolle Center for People and Forests, College of Forestry and Conservation, University of Montana, MT, 59812, Phone: 405-243-4958

Publication date: December 1, 2003

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