Climatic Change

, Volume 148, Issue 1–2, pp 81–94 | Cite as

Translating climate change policy into forest management practice in a multiple-use context: the role of ethics

  • Chelsea Batavia
  • Michael Paul Nelson


Managers of public multiple-use landscapes are charged to balance a spectrum of interests and objectives, a task that has become increasingly challenging in light of global climate change. Forests supply a diverse array of social, economic, and environmental goods and benefits, but also stand to contribute to climate change mitigation by sequestering and storing carbon. The scientific dimensions of management decisions made against this backdrop are well appreciated, but their ethical complexity tends to be, at best, understated. Focusing on the issue of carbon storage for climate change mitigation in federal forests of the United States Pacific Northwest, we employ the method of argument analysis to highlight the role of normative or ethical judgments in multiple-use forest management. We demonstrate that such decisions are logically predicated on normative judgments about which public interests merit recognition and prioritization in the decision context. We show that a generalized commitment to multiple-use is insufficient as a normative basis for management decisions, and that more ethically explicit judgments are required to reach actionable conclusions about appropriate management objectives.



The authors thank Cheryl Friesen for her ongoing assistance and Chris Still for his invaluable advice. Additional thanks to the two anonymous reviewers who provided helpful feedback on an earlier version of the manuscript.

Funding information

This work was supported by the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest research program, funded by the National Science Foundation’s Long-Term Ecological Research Program (DEB 1440409); and the Achievement Rewards for College Scientists (ARCS) Foundation.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Forest Ecosystems and SocietyOregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA

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