The issues surrounding natural resource decision-making in the present day are complex, varied and debated frequently and contentiously by the public. The complexity of the issues poses new challenges for scientists who are being asked to actively engage in this debate. This raises questions about what is credible scientific information and how such information is used in often emotionally or politically laden natural resource management decisions. One result has been an uncomfortable partnership among scientists and natural resource managers. Scientists are being asked to frame their research in ways that maintains scientific independence yet is responsive to management questions, at scales that often challenge existing scientific knowledge and under severe time constraints. Resource decision-makers are challenged to clarify their management goals, to fully understand and use the science, and to explicitly identify the level of acceptable risk. Using the Interior Columbia Basin Ecosystem Management Project as an example, lessons learned from the interaction among scientists and natural resource decision-makers is discussed and propositions for appropriate roles are presented. When properly generated, presented, and accountably used, science facilitates discussion among competing interests by helping to define the range of available choice and focusing discussions on consequences of social choice. By expanding and revealing the range of possible outcomes, scientists increase the likelihood that management decisions are understood and that those decisions can endure.
Forest Ecology and Management – Elsevier
Published: Oct 1, 2001
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