Ecological Forestry A Critical Analysis

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Batavia, Chelsea. 2015. Ecological Forestry: A Critical Analysis. Corvallis, OR: Oregon State University. 337 p. M.S. thesis.


Although science is widely accepted as a fundamental source of information underlying decisions about forest management and conservation, considerably less attention has been paid to the inevitable role that normative values and beliefs play in such decisions. This thesis highlights the normative dimensions of "ecological forestry," a strategy of forest management that uses silviculture to mimic the effects of non-anthropogenic processes of disturbance and succession in order to meet multiple objectives on a single piece of land. Although its scientific foundations and silvicultural applications are relatively well developed in the literature, a conceptual analysis of ecological forestry reveals that it fails to coalesce into a discrete philosophy of forest management due to persistent metaphysical, normative, and ethical ambiguities, which allow for problematic philosophical and practical inconsistencies. Even once it has been tailored to a specific context, e.g. current proposals to use ecological forestry to manage the O&C lands in western Oregon, without clear answers to normative and ultimately ethical questions about objectives, values, and beliefs, ecological forestry might still be applied in variable and potentially incommensurable ways. An analysis of the arguments made about ecological forestry, both broadly theoretical and pertaining specifically to western Oregon, shows that empirical uncertainties and normative gaps need to be addressed before we can make a clear, well-reasoned decision about whether ecological forestry is a viable and appropriate strategy for forest management and conservation.