Batavia, Chelsea; Nelson, Michael Paul. 2018. Translating climate change policy into forest management practice in a multiple-use context: the role of ethics. Climatic Change. 148(1): 81-94. doi: 10.1007/s10584-018-2186-2
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.