Fire Governance, Ecological Regime Change, and Epistemic Rigidity in Settler-Established Protected Areas: Lessons Learned from the Northeast Boreal in Ktaqmkuk.
This thesis aims to acknowledge the existence and legitimacy of diverse cultural relationships to fire. We use a systems-thinking approach to shed light on the ecological, managerial, and epistemic elements that are suspected to be related to an ongoing ecological regime shift from closed canopy boreal forest habitat to open savanna and heathland habitats in the boreal region of eastern Ktaqmkuk (in Newfoundland). Using causal loop diagramming and expert reviews, we identify the Western-defined concept of ecological integrity and the subsequent reliance on baselines as an intervention point for addressing ecological regime change and colonial legacies in Canadian conservation. Settler-constructed baselines both ecologically and socially constrain people from adapting to change by freezing landscapes, cultures, and ecological knowledge in time. To address this issue, we recommend that conservation practitioners and researchers move beyond Western monolithic understandings of nature and knowledge towards a paradigm of social-ecological integrity focused on holistic system health.