Harry Nelson

Wall Associate


Associate Professor


Department of Forest Resources Management





Geographic Location

Harry Nelson

Dr. Nelson’s long-term research interest is in analyzing natural and environmental resource policy with an emphasis on forestry and in developing new policy options that can help enhance the long run sustainability of Canadian forests and the communities and businesses that rely upon them. The forest sector itself is undergoing a structural transformation as the industry has to adapt to changing markets and new opportunities and risks; at the same time, there is an increasing emphasis being placed on the non-market values of those forests, spurred by changing public expectations on how those forests should be managed. Climate change makes the challenges even more complex.

He is currently investigating what role Ecosystem Services could provide as an alternative business model for indigenous groups managing forest lands in BC. He continues to work on on assessing the impacts of climate change on how we manage our forests and exploring adaptation options.assessing the impacts of climate change on how we manage our forests and exploring adaptation options.

Primary Recipient Awards

Harry Nelson – International Research Roundtables – 2015

Donning the Regalia: Maintaining Tradition in an Age of Modernity
Principal Investigator(s): Dr. Harry Nelson, Department of Forest Resources Management, UBC; Dr. Janette Bulkan, Department of Forest Resources Management, UBC.

While the national media often focuses on aboriginal protests, portraying a picture of conflict between Indigenous peoples at odds with modern society, underneath a quieter, more transformative change is taking place across Canada and internationally. Globally, Indigenous communities are reasserting their identity as a people and their collective ability to determine their own futures. In doing so, they are finding new ways in which they can govern themselves while being part of society, not apart. Like other governments, they are concerned with how to best provide for their citizens, which requires interacting with the modern economy. In order to do so effectively, they need to rebuild effective governance institutions that also integrate traditional governance arrangements and practices with modern institutions.

The proposed International Research Roundtable directly addresses this challenge by asking: how are Indigenous peoples integrating their traditional values into effective governance systems for land stewardship and economic development? A principal goal of this Roundtable is to identify what community and economic development strategies in modern day circumstances have been successful while respecting traditional values and decision-making. The benefit of drawing together experts and leaders to discuss this point is that it draws on years of practical experience these individuals have in creating a Nation’s vision, developing policies and implementing constitutional and statutory laws. While these Nations have already developed political and organizational structures that are currently in practice, there remains an ongoing struggle to incorporate traditional systems of governance such as hereditary rights, clan families, and social justice community members and elders council into decision-making around these development strategies and associated issues. Indeed, one of the greatest challenges facing modern society today is how to create more economic prosperity but not at the expense of the environment, and there are larger lessons to be learned from examples of how the Indigenous peoples in their respective territories are successfully balancing development while sustaining their environment.

Harry Nelson – Wall Solutions – 2011

Climate Change: Assessing the Adaptive Capacity of Community Forests
Principal Investigator: Harry Nelson, Department of Forest Resources Management, UBC
Partner Organization: BC Community Forest Association
Community Forest Organizations (CFOs) in BC manage forests according to the needs and desires of local communities and First Nations in forest dependent regions, in order to maximise the economic, social and environmental benefits of forestry. The effects of climate change in these communities are expected to be significant, and likely to have a detrimental effect on the health of the forests and forest values on which communities rely. However, there are practical steps that CFOs can take which may improve their ability to cope with future conditions. This study is concerned with what CFOs need to have in place to take these steps. ‘Adaptive capacity’ is a term used to describe an ability to adapt to change. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, adaptive capacity depends upon governance, access to economic and physical capital, social networks, human skills and knowledge, technology, and guiding values. We investigate the relative importance of each component of adaptive capacity to ascertain which of these factors most need to be present for a CFO to adapt. Identifying the most important factors will assist the BC Community Forest Association to focus resources on enabling CFOs to continue delivering community benefits in a changing climate and provide information for policy design.