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The legal relations of “private” forests: making and unmaking private forest lands on Vancouver Island
The Journal of Legal Pluralism and Unofficial Law  (IF),  Pub Date : 2021-03-19, DOI: 10.1080/07329113.2021.1882803
Estair Van Wagner

Abstract

While the vast majority of forestlands in Canada are considered “Crown land,” there are key areas of private forestland. On private land the incidents of fee simple ownership mean the owner emerges as land use decision maker – the “agenda setter” for the land. Yet a richer set of legal relations exists in these forests. Indigenous legal orders derived from an enduring relationship with the land and place also govern forestlands. Using the case of the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway lands in British Columbia, this article explores the intersection between historical and contemporary human-forest relations upheld by Anglo-Canadian law and the pre-existing Indigenous legal relations with forestland. This article illustrates how the current model of Canadian natural resource governance, centered on consultation and accommodation of judicially recognized rights, fails to create adequate space for pluralistic human-forest relations and Indigenous environmental jurisdiction.