Jill M. Belsky

Photo of Belsky, Jill M.

Jill M. Belsky

Professor Emeratus of Rural & Environmental Sociology

Curriculum Vitae: View/Download CV

Personal Summary

I officially retired from the University of Montana on January 31, 2021. As such, I am no longer accepting new graduate students under my supervision.  Nonetheless, I plan to continue to conduct research, work as a professional consultant, serve on editorial boards, and teach at other universities (especially those offering experiential, field-based learning).  Stay tuned for updates on my next phase.

My teaching, research and public outreach/engaged scholarship over the past 30 years have focussed on interactions between social and ecological systems at multiple scales, and their implications for policy and land management in rural areas overseas and in the U.S. West.  I have been particularly interested in processes related to rural livelihoods and environmental governance, especially community-owned and/or managed forests. My approach is interdisciplinary, participatory, theoretically-informed and attendant to issues relating to social and environmental justice and resilience.  While my work draws on a variety of environmental social science theories and methods, I am particularly inspired by political ecology and interdisciplinary approaches.

Examples of my research and outreach efforts:

Corporate Timber Divestment and Ownership Transitions in the U.S. West:  Building on a decade of engagement and participatory research with local watershed groups in western Montana, this research and outreach works to understand and assist with forest land ownership transitions related to corporate timber divestment including their acquisition, funding and governance.  I am particularly involved in developing understanding of the opportunities and challenges related to creating and governing community conservation areas and forests on these lands, and their role in collaborative and participatory landscape managemenment. I work closely with issues related to the ownership and governance of three forests purchased by The Nature Conservancy located in Washington and Montana.

Building Integrative Conservation Education and Research: Since 2006 myself and colleagues from the Franke College of Forestry and Conservation have been assisting with faculty development in the Ugyen Wangchuk Institute for Conservation and Environment Research (UWICER) in central Bhutan, including collaborative research with Bhutanese researchers on local livelihoods and governance policies and practices in community-based forests and ecotourism activities, and on fuel wood consumption and management in a range of forest types. I also continue to research and write on issues related to the promise and challenge of integrative thinking and innovative action among social and ecological scientists, and with residents and other land managers and users.

Monitoring Restoration Efforts in the Seeley-Swan-Blackfoot Region of Montana:  As a component of the Southwestern Crown of the Continent Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLRP), my graduate students and I are conducting social assessments and developing criteria and indicators for long-term monitoring of social and economic aspects of the program. As one of ten federally-funded CFLRP efforts, the program aims to collaboratively implement restoration and fuel mitigation treatments to benefit local ecosystems, fire budgets and rural economies and communities.

Editor-in-Chief, Society & Natural Resources: From July 2011 - 2014 I served as editor-in-chief of the flagship journal, Society & Natural Resources. I am sharing this position with colleague Dan E. Williams, Research Social Scientist with the USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station in Fort Collins, Colo.

Previous Work: Earlier projects of mine involved interdisciplinary studies on shade-grown cacao and community-based rattan collection and management in Central Sulawesi (Indonesia), critical perspectives on community-based rural ecotourism and conservation in Belize; conflicts and challenges of livelihood, logging and wildlife conservation across public and private lands in Montana; and conservation farming policies and practices on sloping lands in the Philippines and Indonesia.

Bolle Center for People and Forests:

From 2004 to 2014, I served as the Director of The Bolle Center for People and Forests.  This center was established at the University of Montana in 1994 to honor the late Arnold Bolle, a former Dean of the School of Forestry and reknown forester and conservation leader. The focus of the center is to strengthen interdisciplinary and participatory research, education and service to foster resilient and sustainable livelihoods, communities and forests in the U.S. mountain region and internationally.  Under the directorship of my successor,  Professor Martin Nie, the center has expanded and deepened its work in environmental policy.  Please see the center webpage for updates and publications.


Ph.D., 1991 Cornell University, Rural/Development Sociology
Minors: Agriculture and Natural Resource Sociology and Southeast Asian Studies.
M.S., 1984 Cornell University, Extension Education
Minors: Rural Sociology, International Agriculture and Southeast Asian Studies.
B.A., 1978 Colgate University, Sociology and Anthropology, Graduated Cum Laude

Field of Study

Natural Resource/Environmental Sociology
Rural/Development Studies
Social/Community Forestry
Sustainable Agriculture

Selected Publications

Belsky, J.M. and A. Barton. 2018. Constitutionality in Montana: A decade of institution building in the Blackfoot Community Conservation Area. Human Ecology 46(1), 79-89.

               [In: Special Issue, Editors T. Haller, J.M. Belsky and S. Rist. 2018. The constitutionality approach: Conditions, opportunities, and challenges for bottom-up institution building. Human Ecology 46(1)]

2017 Siebert, S.F., and J.M.Belsky.  Keeping ecological disturbance on the land: recreating swidden effects in Bhutan.  In:  Malcom Cairns (ed.). Shifting Cultivation and Environmental Change:  Indigenous People, Agriculture and Forest Conversion: Vol II. Earthscan, London.

2016 Belsky, J.M. and S.F. Siebert.  Combining political ecology and ecological disturbance theory to understand an historic forest land use and livelihood in Bhutan:  Lessons for Contemporary Forest Conservation and Development. Working Paper, IUCN Global Economics and Social Science Programme.  Available from https://www.iucn.org/theme/science-and-knowledge/our-work/culture-science-and-knowledge/social-science-conservation.

2016 Long, John, Heidi L Ballard, Larry A. Fisher and Jill M. Belsky. Questions that won't go away in participatory research. Society and natural resources 29(2):250-263.

2015 Belsky, J.M. Community forestry in Bhutan and Montana: Comparative engagements with market forces. Forest Policy and Economics 58, 29-36.

2015 Siebert, Stephen F. and Jill M. Belsky. 2014. Managed fuelwood harvesting for energy, income and conservation: An opportunity for Bhutan.  Biomass and Bioenergy 74:  220-223.

2014 Weber, E.P.; J.M. Belsky; D. Lach and A.S. Cheng. The value of practice- based knowledge.  Society and Natural Resources 27(10): 1074-1088.

2014 Siebert, Stephen F., Jill M. Belsky, Sangay Wangchuk, James Riddering.  The end of swidden in Bhutan: implications for forest cover and biodiversity. In: Malcolm Cairns (editor).  A Forest of Voices. Earthscan, London.

2014 Namgyel, U; J.M. Belsky and S.F. Siebert. Participation and Governance Challenges Along the Nabji Community-Based Ecotourism Trail in Bhutan. Proceedings of the Bhutan Ecological Society

2014 Siebert, Stephen F. and Jill M. Belsky.  Historic livelihoods and land uses as ecological disturbances and their role in enhancing biodiversity:  an example from Bhutan.  Biological Conservation 177: 82-89.

2014 Wangchuk, S.; S.F. Siebert; J.M. Belsky. Fuelwood use and availability in  Bhutan:  Implications for national policy and local forest management. Human Ecology 42:127-135.

2010. Ballard, Heidi L. and Belsky, Jill M.(2010) Participatory action research and environmental learning: implications for resilient forests and communities, Environmental Education Research, 16: 5, 611 — 627

2008. Jill M. Belsky. Creating Community Forests. In: Donoghue, Ellen M. and V. Sturtevant (editors). 2008. Forest Community Connections: Implications for Research, Management and Governance. Resources for the Future, Washington D.C. Chap 12, Pages 219-242.

2007.  Siebert, Stephen F. and Jill M. BelskyReflections on Conservation Education and Practice in Bhutan. Journal of Bhutan Studies .Vol 16, pps 83-111.

2007. Yung, Laurie and Jill M. Belsky. Private Property Rights and Community Goods: Negotiating Landowner Cooperation Amidst Changing Ownership on the Rocky Mountain Front. Society & Natural Resources 20:8: 689-703.

2005. Wilson, Seth M., Michael J. Madel, David J. Mattson, Jonathan M. Graham, James A. Burchfield, and Jill M. Belsky. Natural landscape features, human-related attractants, and conflict hotspots: a spatial analysis of human-grizzly bear conflicts. Ursus 16(1):117-129

2004. Belsky, Jill M. Contributions of qualitative research to understanding the politics of community ecotourism. In: J. Phillimore and L. Goodson (eds.) Qualitative Methods in Tourism Research. Routledge Press

2004 Belsky, J.M. Global forces in social sciences approaches to natural resource management. In: Michael J. Manfredo, Jerry J. Vaske, Donald R. Field, Perry J. Brown, Brett L. Bruyere (eds.). Society and Natural Resources: A Summary of Knowledge. Modern Litho: Jefferson City , MO

2003 Yung, L, W. Freimund and J.M. Belsky. The Politics of Place: Understanding Meaning, Common Ground, and Political Difference on the Rocky Mountain Front. Forest Science 49(6):1-12.

2003 Belsky, Jill M. and Stephen F. Siebert. Cultivating cacao: implications of sun-grown cacao on local food security and environmental sustainability. Agriculture and Human Values 20(3):277-285.  

2003 Cestero, Barb and Jill M. Belsky. Collaborating for Community and Ecological Well-Being in the Swan Valley , Montana . In Forest Communities, Community Forests . Kusel, J. (ed.). Rowman and Littlefield Pub.

2003 Belsky, Jill M. Unmasking the “Local”: Gender, Community, and the Politics of Community-Based Rural Ecotourism in Belize . In Steven R. Brechin, Pat C. West, Peter Wilshusen and Crystal Fortwangler (eds.). In Contested Nature: Power, Protected Areas and the Dispossessed – Promoting International Conservation with Justice in the 21 st Century, Albany , NY : SUNY Press.

2002 Siebert, Stephen F. and Jill M. Belsky. Livelihood security and protected area management. International Journal of Wilderness 8(3):48-42.

2001 Belsky, Jill M . Beyond the Natural Resource and Environmental Sociology Divide: Insights from a Transdisciplinary Perspective. Society & Natural Resources. 15 (3): 269-280.

2001 Johnson, N., J. Belsky, V. Benavides, M. Goebel, A. Hawkins, S. Waage. Global linkages to community-based ecosystem management in the United States . Journal of Sustainable Forestry. 12(3/4):35-63.

2000 Belsky, Jill M. Changing Human Relations with Nature: Making and Remaking Wilderness Science. In Cole, David N; McCool, Stephen F. 2000. Proceedings: Wilderness Science in a Time of Change. Proc. RMRS –P-000. Ogeden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Center.

2000 Belsky, Jill M . The Meaning of the Manatee: Community-Based Ecotourism Discourse and Practice in Gales Point , Belize . In Charles Zerner (ed.) Plants, People and Justice: Conservation and Resource Extraction in Tropical Developing Countries. Columbia University Press.

1999 Belsky, Jill M. Misrepresenting Communities: the politics of community-based rural ecotourism in Gales Point Manatee, Belize. Rural Sociology 64(4):641-666. [Reprinted in Humphrey, C, F. Buttel and T. Lewis (eds.). 2002. Environment, Energy and Society: Exemplary Works. Wadsworth Pub.]

1998 Belsky, Jill M. and Stephen F. Siebert. Nontimber Forest Products in Conservation and Community Development: Desmoncus sp. in Gales Point, Manatee, Belize, In Timber, Tourists and Temples: Conservation and Development in the Maya Forest of Belize, Guatemala and Mexico, Richard B. Primack and David Bray (eds.), Island Press. Pp.141-154.

1995 Belsky, Jill M . and Siebert, Stephen F. Managing rattan harvesting for local livelihoods and forest conservation in Kerinci-Seblat National Park , Sumatra . Selbyana 16(2): 212-222.

1994 Siebert, Stephen F. and Jill M. Belsky. Rattan Management for Sustainable Livelihoods and Forest Conservation: the Case of Kerinci-Seblat National Park , Indonesia . PARKS: The International Journal for Protected Areas Managers Vol.4, No. 3.

1994 Belsky, Jill M. Soil Conservation and Poverty: Lessons from Upland Indonesia . Society and Natural Resources Volume 7, pp. 429-443.

1993 Belsky, Jill M. Household Food Security, Farm Trees and Agroforestry: A Comparative Study in Indonesia and the Philippines . Human Organization 52(2):130-141.

1990 Siebert, S.F. and J.M. Belsky. Bench Terracing in the Kerinci Uplands of Sumatra , Indonesia . Journal of Soil and Water Conservation 45(5):559-561.

1989 Buttel, Frederick H. and J.M. Belsky. Biotechnology, Plant Breeding and Intellectual Property: Social and Ethical Dimensions In Owning Scientific and Technical Information: Values and Ethical Issues, Weil, Vivian and John W. Snapper (eds.). Rutgers University Press, 110-131 and in Science, Technology and Human Values, Volume 12, (January 1987).

1985 Siebert, S.F. and J.M. Belsky. Some socioeconomic and environmental aspects of forest use by lowland farmers in Leyte , Philippines and their implications for agricultural development and forest management. Philippine Quarterly of Culture and Society 13:282-296.

1985 Siebert, S.F. and J.M. Belsky.Forest product trade in a lowland Filipino village. Economic Botany 39:522-533.

1983 Belsky, J.M. and S.F. Siebert. Household responses to drought in two subsistence Leyte villages. Philippine Quarterly of Culture and Society 11: 237-256.