Following the 1917 Mexican Revolution inhabitants of the states of Chihuahua and Michoacan received vast tracts of prime timberland as part of Mexico's land redistribution program. Although locals gained possession of the forests, the federal government retained management rights, which created conflict over subsequent decades among rural, often indigenous villages; government; and private timber companies about how best to manage the forests.
Christopher R. Boyer examines this history in Political Landscapes, where he argues that the forests in Chihuahua and Michoacan became what he calls "political landscapes" – that is, geographies that become politicized by the interactions between opposing actors – through the effects of backroom deals, nepotism, and political negotiations. Understanding the historical dynamic of community forestry in Mexico is particularly critical for those interested in promoting community involvement in the use and conservation of forestlands around the world. Considering how rural and indigenous people have confronted, accepted, and modified the rationalizing projects of forest management foisted on them by a developmentalist state is crucial before community management is implemented elsewhere.
Part I. The Making of Revolutionary Forestry
1. The Commodification of Nature, 1880-1910
2. Revolution and Regulation, 1910-1928
3. Revolutionary Forestry, 1928-1942
Part II. The Development Imperative
4. Industrial Forests, 1942-1958
5. The Ecology of Development, 1952-1972
6. The Romance of State Forestry, 1972-1992
Conclusion. Slivers of Hope in the Neoliberal Forest
Appendix 1. Federal Forestry Codes, 1926-2008
Appendix 2. UIEFs, 1945-1986
Christopher R. Boyer is Professor of History and Latin American and Latino Studies at the University of Illinois, Chicago. He is the editor of A Land between Waters: Environmental Histories of Modern Mexico.
"Mexico has a reputation for being in the global vanguard of community forest management, with positive outcomes in reducing deforestation, increasing community incomes, and protecting biodiversity. But until now, the history of how that happened has been fragmentary and incomplete. Christopher R. Boyer's sweeping history of the development of forest policy and community forestry in twentieth-century Mexico pieces together how those policies emerged and the forest community struggles that drove them forward. He also ably shows that the outcomes of those policies have varied by state, with less encouraging outcomes in Michoacan and Chihuahua. Political Landscapes is an important contribution to Latin American environmental history."
– David Barton Bray, coeditor of The Community Forests of Mexico: Managing for Sustainable Landscapes
"Political Landscapes is an excellently researched and meticulously documented environmental and political history of modern Mexico. Christopher R. Boyer's focus on the forests shows us a new way of writing Mexico's history from the Revolution forward. A masterful narrative, this will become a very important and influential book."
– Cynthia Radding, author of Wandering Peoples: Colonialism, Ethnic Spaces, and Ecological Frontiers in Northwestern Mexico, 1700-1850