, Volume 31, Issue 1, pp 0001-0013

Understandings of Environmental Quality: Ambiguities and Values Held by Environmental Professionals

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The terms used to describe and negotiate environmental quality are both ambiguous and value-laden. Stakeholders intimately and actively involved in the management of forested lands were interviewed and found to use ambiguous, tautological, and value-laden definitions of terms such as health, biodiversity, sustainability, and naturalness. This confusing language hinders public participation efforts and produces calls to regulate and remove discretion from environmental professionals. Our data come from in-depth interviews with environmental management professionals and other stakeholders heavily vested in negotiating the fate of forested lands. We contend that environmental science and management will be more effective if its practitioners embrace and make explicit these ambiguous and evaluative qualities rather than ignore and disguise them.