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Title: Fire trace : plans and practices of conservation and development in Belize's coastal savanna, 1920 to present
Author: Smith, Catherine Eileen
ISNI:       0000 0004 8509 2265
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2019
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This thesis examines the past century of wildfire management of the coastal pine savanna in Belize. Combining political ecology with historical geography, it draws on archival evidence, interviews, and ethnographic enquiry into an international development project in Belize. It considers contemporary approaches that seek to use prescribed fire with the participation of local communities in relation to past practices. The Belizean savanna has long been shaped by human fire use. Its flora is ecologically adapted to fire. Yet fire has been repeatedly cast as a problem, from c. 1920, by British colonial and, later, USA foresters, and, most recently, by international and local non-governmental nature conservation organisations. Informed by different schools of thought, each of these organisations has designed programmes of fire management as a form of conservation and/or development. Yet little has changed; Belize's diverse and growing rural population has continued to use fire, and the savannas burn, year upon year. While the planned aims and methods differed, each programme of fire management has, in practice, been similarly structured and constrained by its genesis within colonial or international development. Funding for fire management has been inconsistent and has favoured 'expert'-led technocratic approaches that could not address the specific context of wildfire in Belize. Each programme has been shaped by a specifically Belizean ecology and politics, in excess of its definition of the fire 'problem' and 'solutions' to it. Powerful political elites and fire users in Belize have not granted the same authority to technical experts, nor have they seen clear incentives for the fire management that these experts envisaged. Belize's political elite has sought to retain control over land and resources, even at the expense of policies (including those of fire management) they officially endorse to satisfy international funders. This analysis highlights that, when examining environmental management, it is important not to isolate study of ideology and discourse in plans and policies, but to also attend to the conditions of their materialisation in practice.
Supervisor: Stuart, Neil ; Ryan, Casey ; Fisher, Janet Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Belize ; coastal pine savanna ; wildfire management ; international funders ; local political elites