This chapter explores how shifting rationalities of individuals and organizations reshape the management of natural resources over time. Using an archival and interview-based research design, we examine the major chronological events and shifting rationalities that impacted how a single, valuable river resource was managed throughout the twentieth century. Drawing on a parallel story (The Giving Tree), our examination of California’s McCloud River illustrates (1) how the rationality of actors at various points in time drives their interests in specific natural resources, as well as acceptable ways to manage those resources and (2) that water resources such as rivers, which have long been viewed as replenishing natural resources, can be managed in a way that removes their replenishing nature. We posit that by improving our understanding of natural resource management in the past, the abilities of individuals and organizations to manage nature resources more responsibly in the future will be enhanced.
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