Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics

, Volume 12, Issue 3, pp 263–277 | Cite as

Stewardship of Natural Resources: Definition, Ethical and Practical Aspects

  • Richard Worrell
  • Michael C. Appleby


Stewardship is potentially a usefulconcept in modernizing management philosophies. Use ofthe term has increased markedly in recent years, yetthe term is used loosely and rarely defined in landmanagement literature. The connections between thispractical usage and the ethical basis of stewardshipare currently poorly developed. The followingdefinition is proposed: ``Stewardship is theresponsible use (including conservation) of naturalresources in a way that takes full and balancedaccount of the interests of society, futuregenerations, and other species, as well as of privateneeds, and accepts significant answerability tosociety.'' A religious interpretation would require thephrase ``and ultimately to God'' to be added.Stewardship has both secular and religiousinterpretations and it will be desirable to developboth of these aspects in parallel. A task forphilosophers is to establish whether the ethical basisof stewardship is sufficient to address environmentalconcerns or whether it is necessary to embrace widerethical approaches. Stewardship occupies similarground to several other concepts of use and managementof resources, particularly sustainability. It canbuild on sustainability by encouraging a broader viewof who and what should benefit from managementactivity. In particular, it focuses attention on therole of managers in providing public benefit and onenvisaging other species as a form of ``stakeholder'' inmanagement decisions. Stewardship is applicable acrossthe widest range of fields of resource use and alsohas relevance to aspects of land tenure and propertyrights. Application of stewardship will require someadjustments in the roles of private managers/ownersvis-à-vis government. It might providemanagers with an expanded role and, importantly, amore positive image, both of themselves and in theeyes of the public. Stewardship could alsobe developed in a way that has relevance to citizensin general (as opposed to managers and owners ofresources), through their interactions with naturalresources as consumers.

environmental ethics land ethic land reform management natural resources public benefit stewardship sustainability 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Alexander, T. G., “Timber Management, Traditional Forestry, and Multiple-Use Stewardship; the Case of the Intermontain Region 1950-1985,” Journal of Forest History 33 (1989), 21-34.Google Scholar
  2. Attfield, R., The Ethics of Environmental Concern (University of Georgia Press, Athens and London, 1991).Google Scholar
  3. Attfield, R., The Ethics of the Global Environment (Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh and Purdue University Press, West Lafayette, Indiana, 1999, Edinburgh), pp. 44-61.Google Scholar
  4. Bender, G., “Weldwood andWildlife - an Example of Leadership in Forest Stewardship in the Private Sector,” Forestry Chronicle 70 (1994), 543-545.Google Scholar
  5. Brown, J. and B. Mitchell, Stewardship - Promoting Conservation and Sustainable use on Private Lands. Conference Proceedings, Atlantic Center for the Environment, Ipswich, MA, USA, 1996.Google Scholar
  6. Callander, R. F., How Scotland Is Owned (Cannongate, Edinburgh, 1998).Google Scholar
  7. Devall, B. and G. Sessions, Deep Ecology: Living as if Nature Mattered (Peregrine Smith Books, 1985).Google Scholar
  8. Diamond, D. D., G. A. Rowell, and D. P. Keddy-Hector, “Conservation of Ashe Juniper (Juniperus ashei Buchholz) Woodlands of the Central Texas Country,” Natural Areas Journal 15 (1995), 189-197.Google Scholar
  9. Dobson, A. Justice and the Environment (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1998).Google Scholar
  10. Duryeas, M., W. Hubbard, D. McGrath, and C. Marcus, “Florida' Forest Stewardship Program,” University of Florida Circular 1020 (1991).Google Scholar
  11. Fisher, R. J., Issues in Forest Conservation: Collaborative Management of Forests for Conservation and Development (International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources/World Wide Fund for Nature, Gland, Switzerland, 1995).Google Scholar
  12. Gaboury, M. N., R. A. Janusz, and K. E. Broughton, “Stream Channel and Riparian Zone Rehabilitation in the Daupin Lake Watershed, Manitoba,” Water Quality Res. J. of Canada 32 (1997), 257-272.Google Scholar
  13. Hesterman, O. B. and T. L. Thorburn, “A Comprehensive Approach to Sustainable Agriculture: W. K. Kelloggs Integrated Farming Systems Initiative,” Journal of Production Agriculture 7 (1994), 132-134.Google Scholar
  14. Leopold, A., “A Conservation Ethic,” in A Sand County Almanac (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1987), pp. 201-226.Google Scholar
  15. Merlo, M., F. D. Puppa, A. Dubgaard, and I. Bateman, Economic Valuation of Benefits of Countryside Stewardship Performed by Agriculture and Forestry. Proc. Workshop of Commission of the European Communities Directorate General for Agriculture, Brussels, 1994, pp. 117-131.Google Scholar
  16. Morse, D., “Environmental Considerations of Livestock Producers,” J. Animal Sci. 73 (1995), 2733-2740.Google Scholar
  17. Nash, J., Loving Nature: Ecological Integrity and Christian Responsibility (Abingdon Press, 1991).Google Scholar
  18. Owen, C. N., Re-Engineering Private Lands Stewardship. Trans. North AmericanWildlife and Nat. Res. Conf. 60, Minneapolis, Minnesota 1995, pp. 70-76.Google Scholar
  19. Page, R., God and the Web of Creation (SCM Press, London, 1996).Google Scholar
  20. Passmore, J., Man' Responsibility for Nature (Duckworth, London, 1980).Google Scholar
  21. Rowan Robinson, J., “Stewardship: From Rhetoric to Reality,” Edinburgh Law Review (in press).Google Scholar
  22. Regan, T., The Case for Animal Rights (Rutledge, London, 1983).Google Scholar
  23. Scott, T., R. Standiford, and N. Pratini, “Private Landowners Critical to Saving California Biodiversity,” California agriculture 49 (1995), 50-57.Google Scholar
  24. Scottish Land Reform Convention, Bulletin of the Scottish Land Reform Convention, Vol. 1 (COSLA, Edinburgh, 1999), pp. 1-2.Google Scholar
  25. Smythe, K. D., J. C. Bernabo, T. B. Carter, and P. R. Jutro, “Focusing Biodiversity Research on the Needs of Decision Makers,” Environmental Management 20 (1996), 865-872.Google Scholar
  26. SRT, While the Earth Endures. Society, Religion and Technology Project, Church of Scotland, Department of Ministry and Mission (Quorum Press, Edinburgh, 1986).Google Scholar
  27. Thomas, J.W., “Trends in Forest Management in the United States,” Forestry Chronicle 70 (1994), 546-549.Google Scholar
  28. Tuttle, R. W., “Showing Good Stewardship,” in J. K. Mitchell (ed.), Integrated Resource Management and Landscape Modification for Environmental Protection. Conf. Proc. American Society of Agricultural Engineers: St. Joseph, Michigan 1993, pp. 295-299.Google Scholar
  29. Varner, G., “Environmental Law and the Eclipse of Land as Private Property,” in F. Ferre and P. Hartel (eds.), Ethics and Environmental Policy: Theory Meets Practice (University of Georgia Press, Athens, 1994), pp. 158-165.Google Scholar
  30. World Commission on Environment and Development, Our Common Future (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1987).Google Scholar
  31. White, L., “The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis,” Science 155 (1967), 1203-1207.Google Scholar
  32. Wright, P. J. and D. Rideout, “Recent Experiences with End Result Contracting on National Forestlands in the West,” Western Journal of Applied Forestry 5 (1990), 119-123.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard Worrell
    • 1
  • Michael C. Appleby
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Ecology and Resource ManagementUniversity of EdinburghEdinburghUK Email

Personalised recommendations