Normative and Ethical Foundations of Ecological Forestry in the United States

Normative and Ethical Foundations of Ecological Forestry in the United States Abstract Ecological forestry is the product of simultaneous evolutions of ecological science and conservation ethics over the past century. The early development of forest science and practice was strongly influenced by deterministic ecological models of succession in response to disturbance, and has been influenced more recently by ecosystem ecology principles that emphasize a higher level of complexity and uncertainty. Subjective societal values regarding forests have evolved as well, as principles of conservation ethics have been incorporated into forest policies and professional ethics. This intertwining of normative development with advances in ecosystem ecology provides a means by which forest managers and landowners can accomplish normative goals—personal as well as societal—in forest policies and practices. conservation ethic, stewardship, ecosystem management, ecological science Management and Policy Implications The institutional, legal, and policy framework for forest management in the United States has changed significantly in recent decades in response to advances in ecological science, but also in response to the ongoing evolution in normative and ethical values in American society. Past surveys of forestry employers, educators, and recent graduates consistently point out the need for greater emphasis in forestry curricula on the development of these normative and ethical values, and how they influence the development of new forest policies and practices. This may be increasingly important in the context of accelerating environmental change as risk management and the maintenance of ecological patterns and processes play greater roles in forest management decision making. Similarly, a more explicit consideration of normative and ethical foundations is essential to the success of open and transparent collaborative forest planning processes as their emphasis shifts from sustaining traditional resources, goods, and services in a relatively static environment to maintaining the resilience of forest ecosystems to produce goods and services deemed important to society in an environment increasingly characterized by dynamism and uncertainty. Ecological forestry is based on both scientific and ethical principles, each of which continue to evolve, and to inform one another. Ecological science has undergone a fundamental shift from the deterministic models of natural succession that dominated the field for much of the twentieth century, to the more dynamic and contingent models that now characterize ecosystem ecology. Just as the early models of forest ecology influenced the development of forest science and sustained-yield forest management, forest ecosystem management today acknowledges the increased complexity and uncertainties of ecosystem ecology, and the necessity of adaptive approaches that rely more heavily upon monitoring, evaluation, and adjustment. At the same time, society’s normative values regarding forests have evolved from the earliest articulations of moral and ethical considerations, to be broadly incorporated into forestry law, policy, and professional ethics. “Ecological forestry” represents an intertwining of this parallel evolution in ecological science and conservation ethics, and serves as a mechanism by which normative values are internalized in forest management policy and practice. Influence of Evolving Ecological Science Definitions of ecosystem-based forest management, or “ecological forestry,” have been refined over the past several decades, generally as being based upon natural processes of disturbance and succession, allowing managers to meet economic objectives without compromising the ecological values of forests (Leopold 1933, Minckler 1974, Passmore 1980, Rolston 1991, Seymour and Hunter 1999, Rolston 2012; Franklin and Johnson 2013; Batavia and Nelson 2017). Ecological forestry developed gradually over the course of the twentieth century as the biological sciences shifted from a focus on individual organisms in isolation, to species associations, to ecological communities, and ultimately to landscape-scale ecosystems—and from models that assumed stability and predictability to models based on complexity and contingency (Skillen 2015). Ecosystem ecology arose from research in the early twentieth century on the development of plant communities, particularly in the aftermath of natural disturbances such as fires, or human disturbances such as clearing for agriculture. Frederic Clements, whose theories dominated the field of ecology for much of the first half of the twentieth century, asserted that plant communities act almost as organisms unto themselves, and follow a consistent and predictable pathway toward a successional climax association of species (Clements 1905). Subsequent disturbances may result in setbacks, but the mechanistic process could be expected to pick up where it left off in a steady progression toward the climax state. This Clementsian perspective strongly influenced the development of forest management in the United States, suggesting that by eliminating natural disturbances such as fire and insects, and replacing them with controlled disturbances in the form of timber harvesting and silvicultural treatments (e.g., thinning), the mechanistic tendencies of natural succession could be harnessed to produce reliable yields of desirable tree species (Hawley 1929, Chapman 1931, Clements 1935). As early as the 1920s, other ecologists such as Henry Gleason observed that this kind of mechanistic and predictable process of plant succession was not borne out by field studies, which found a high degree of variation in the way plant communities developed after disturbance. Gleason proposed an alternative theory that development was as much a function of conditions and random events specific to a given site (Gleason 1926). It was a view not readily accepted by mainstream ecologists of the time (Skillen 2015). Meanwhile, Oxford ecologist Arthur Tansley introduced the idea that understanding succession in plant communities required consideration of not just the interaction among the plant species themselves, but the more complex interplay among the entire array of plants and animals present, and abiotic factors such as soil, temperature, wind, and water—a unit of analysis that Tansley termed an “ecosystem” (Tansley 1935, Golley 1996). By the 1950s, Tansley’s more comprehensive approach opened the door to the next major era in ecological science, that of “ecosystem ecology.” Led by ecologists such as Eugene Odum, ecosystem ecology introduced the study of flows of nutrients and energy through ecosystems as a way of measuring and quantifying the underlying biophysical processes that result in ecological stability (Odum 1959). This approach to understanding the “biogeochemistry” of ecosystems became the basis for a rich outpouring of research in ecosystems ecology, most notably at the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest in New Hampshire (Bormann and Likens 1979a). It also provided a detailed and quantitative approach to assessing the impact of major disturbances in forest ecosystems, including clearcutting (Likens et al. 1978, Bormann and Likens 1979b). Mounting evidence from a proliferation of quantitative field studies gradually invalidated the earlier ecological models that assumed stability and predictability. What emerged in the “new ecology” were ecosystem models that recognized far greater complexity and interplay among an array of dynamic factors. Ecologists struggling to make sense of these complex systems developed a hierarchical approach, breaking the entire system down into a set of subsystems, and then analyzing the interactions between these subsystems. All the while, however, they could not lose sight of the challenge of putting it all together in a way that could explain the overall patterns and processes observed in the field, leading ecologist Frank Egler to observe that an ecosystem is “not only more complex than we think; it is more complex than we can think” (Egler 1977). Forest Management and Ecological Uncertainty Forest resource managers were in a quandary. Having been advised that the mainstream ecological science that had guided their decisions for most of the twentieth century was no longer valid, they sought something to replace it. It was not much help to managers or policymakers to be told by the country’s leading ecologists that forest ecosystems are just complex, dynamic, and chaotic, and therefore difficult to understand and manage. In 1989, the National Academy of Sciences appointed a special commission to assess the state of forestry research, especially as a source of guidance to forest managers striving to comply with laws and regulations requiring the conservation of biological diversity. The commission’s report opened with the following statement: Although concern about and interest in the global role and fate of forests are currently great, the existing level of knowledge about forests is inadequate to develop sound forest management policies. Current knowledge and patterns of research will not result in sufficiently accurate predictions of the consequences of potentially harmful influences on forests, including forest management practices that lack a sound basis in biological knowledge. This deficiency will reduce our ability to maintain or enhance forest productivity, recreation, and conservation as well as our ability to ameliorate or adapt to changes in the global environment. To help overcome this unfortunate deficiency in knowledge, a new research paradigm will need to be adopted—an environmental paradigm. (National Research Council 1990) From the perspective of many ecologists, forest policy and management practices at the time were still fundamentally rooted in the Clementsian view that ecosystems are inherently stable and predictable, and that through carefully controlled interventions (e.g., regeneration harvests to maintain a mosaic of forest openings of various age classes across large landscapes, mimicking large, stand-replacing fires in fire-adapted forest ecosystems, or selective cutting to promote the development of stand structures characteristic of old-growth forests) forest managers could create the conditions that would result in maintaining biological diversity while continuing to produce an array of other goods and services (Holling 1973). Although ecosystem ecology could not promise predictability in the Clementsian sense, ecologists asserted that a model that reflected the dynamism of ecosystems could still serve as a useful guide in forest policy and management (Ludwig et al. 1997, Folke et al. 2002). There was a growing body of scientific literature documenting how forests and other ecosystems are able to maintain their basic ecological processes and functions over long periods of time in spite of repeated disturbance—their resilience (Peterson et al. 1998). If forest policy and management practices truly sought to “mimic nature” in order to maintain biological diversity and other characteristics (and potential products) of well-functioning forest ecosystems, then, it was argued, they would need to relinquish their hold on the illusion of command-and-control forest management, embrace the dynamism and “surprises” of naturally functioning ecosystems, and manage instead to maintain the underlying resiliency in forest ecosystems (Holling 1996, Walker et al. 2004, Holling 1986). Not that this was something simple or easy to accomplish. Human disturbances like timber harvesting would have to reflect patterns of natural disturbances in terms of timing, scale, intensity, and other characteristics in which the underlying resiliency of the ecosystem is maintained. Even natural disturbances of sufficient scale and intensity, such as a hurricane or volcanic eruption, can exceed the capacity of the ecosystem to absorb the shock and maintain functions and processes. A new and equally functional ecosystem may develop with its own patterns, processes, and resiliency to future shocks, but it will be fundamentally different from the ecosystem it replaced (Folke et al. 2004). Central to the concept that a primary goal of forest management is to maintain ecosystem resiliency is the recognition that there are thresholds that can be approached but not exceeded. This concept may seem to closely parallel the concept of “sustained yield,” that has been in use for more than a century, defined in statute as “the achievement and maintenance in perpetuity of a high-level annual or regular periodic output of the various renewable resources of [forests] without impairment of the productivity of the land” (16 U.S.C. 531). But this approach to forest management implicitly assumes that the problem is well-bounded, clearly defined, relatively simple, and generally linear with respect to cause and effect. But when these same methods of control are applied to a complex, nonlinear, and poorly understood natural world, and when the same predictable outcomes are expected but rarely obtained, severe ecological, social, and economic repercussions result. (Holling and Meffe 1996) Forest managers, and to a lesser extent natural resource policymakers, are coming to grips with an unprecedented level of uncertainty, and of forest management planning and decision making that is more akin to continuous experimentation. The practice of “adaptive management” is one of local management interventions being considered within their larger regional context, followed by intensive monitoring to determine the actual response of the ecosystem to these management actions, by evaluation of the results relative to management and policy goals, and by adjustments in approach prior to similar management actions being taken again. Due to its experimental nature, adaptive management also requires an unprecedented level of ongoing coordination and collaboration between scientists and managers (Lubchenco 1998, NCSSF 2005). Formal “science-management teams” are common in forest management agencies as adaptive management has become standard practice on public forests, and on large regional landscapes that encompass a variety of public and privately owned forests (Halofsky et al. 2011, Peterson et al. 2011, Halofsky and Peterson 2016). This adaptive management approach, with close coordination of science and management, is also becoming critically important as forest managers grapple with the greatly increased level of uncertainty associated with the effects of global environmental change on forests (Millar et al. 2007, Peterson et al. 2011, Sample et al. 2014, Sample et al. 2016). Influence of Evolving Conservation Ethics Ethical and normative considerations have developed in parallel with the concepts of ecological forestry, and played a significant role in originally motivating the science that became ecosystem ecology. As early as 1827, James Fenimore Cooper in his Leatherstocking series of novels condemned resource exploitation and waste on the American frontier: “They scourge the very Earth with their axes. Such hills and hunting grounds have I seen stripped of the gifts of the Lord, without remorse or shame” (Nevins 1954). Landscape painter George Catlin wrote of the overcutting and land abuse that he observed in the American West, and in 1832 may have been the first to propose the removal of lands from the public domain to be reserved as national parks (Cortner and Moote 1999). It has been argued that such early voices for natural resource conservation were motivated more by utilitarian concerns over resource depletion and its economic impacts, rather than ethical concerns (Nash 1967). But at this point in American history, resource shortages had yet to manifest themselves except perhaps at the local level, and Cooper’s invoking of the divine suggests a sense of moral outrage as much as a repugnance for the sheer destruction and waste of valuable natural resources. The ethics and science of natural resource use became intertwined with the publication of Thoreau’s Walden (1854) and works by other Transcendentalists including Ralph Waldo Emerson and Nathaniel Hawthorne (Shanley 1971, Nash 1989, Buell 1996), and more forcefully with the subsequent publication of George Perkins Marsh’s book Man and Nature, or Physical Geography as Modified by Human Action (Marsh 1964). Marsh’s book was based on his observations of the landscapes surrounding the Mediterranean Sea while traveling there as US ambassador to Italy. The great forests of the eastern Mediterranean and what is now southern Turkey had once supplied enough wood to build Cleopatra’s fleet of ships, and north Africa had served as a major source of wood and grain throughout the Greek and Roman empires. Yet by Marsh’s time, these landscapes were far different. If we compare the present physical condition of the countries of which I am speaking with the descriptions that ancient historians and geographers have given of their fertility and general capability of ministering to human uses, we shall find that more than one half of their whole extent—including the provinces most celebrated for the profusion and variety of their spontaneous and cultivated products, and for the wealth and social advancement of their inhabitants—is either deserted by civilized man and surrendered to hopeless desolation, or at least greatly reduced in both productiveness and population. Vast forests have disappeared from mountains and ridges. . . . rivers famous in history and song have shrunk to humble brooklets. (Marsh 1864) Abuse of the land had been at least partially responsible for the decline in the Mediterranean empires, in both ecological and economic terms, Marsh believed. Having witnessed the destructive exploitation of forests in his native United States, he urged his countrymen to “be wise in time, and profit by the errors of our older brethren.” Several thousand copies of Man and Nature were sold, an extraordinary number for the time, and it went through several reprints and updates through to his death in 1882. These new insights helped bring about a major shift in society’s attitudes toward the land and its resources, which up to then were influenced by the sense that any human impact on the natural world could be no more than benign or negligible. To the extent that there was any moral or ethical consideration, human influences on the natural world seemed justified by the Bible’s admonition in Genesis to “fill the Earth and subdue it; and have dominion over every living things that moves upon the Earth.” Marsh considered this passage, and the placement of Man in the Garden of Eden to “till it and keep it,” as inculcating long-term stewardship and sense of responsibility to later generations, rather than near-term exploitation for immediate individual gain: “Man has too long forgotten that the Earth was given to him for usufruct alone, not for consumption, still less for profligate waste . . . the thriftlessness of former generations have imposed upon their successors . . . the command of religion and practical wisdom, to use this world but not abuse it.” An archaic term, “usufruct” is defined as “the right of using and enjoying the fruits or profits of something belonging to another,” and Marsh’s numerous references to responsibilities to future generations indicated an ethic that some considered as limited to humanity (Nash 1989). However, Marsh also censured a “lack of sympathy for those humble creatures which men too selfishly consider as at all times subject to their irresponsible dominion, as without individual rights and interests of their own.” “He whose sympathies with nature have taught him to feel that there is a fellowship between all God’s creatures,” wrote Marsh, “will not rashly assert his right to extirpate a tribe of harmless vegetables, barely because their products neither tickle his palate nor fill his pocket.” This notion of the intrinsic rights and value of species of no economic use to humanity foreshadows its articulation decades later by Aldo Leopold (1933) and others. The suggestion that species other than humanity actually have “rights and interests” would not be addressed in law until more than a century later. Marsh’s Man and Nature was widely cited as a seminal text by the founders and leaders of several new organizations that formed the Conservation Movement of the late nineteenth century, and Marsh was widely considered “the father of conservation” in the United States (Lowenthal 2000). By the time of its publication in 1864, the economic and social consequences of America’s wasteful exploitation of its forest resources, as well as the environmental impacts, were becoming widely recognized (Hays 1959). The scientific management of forests for sustained yield was already well developed in Europe by this time (Fernow 1913, Heske 1938, Watkins 1998, Spiecker 2008, Sample 2008), and European foresters such as Bernhard Fernow and Carl Schenck helped introduce these principles to the management of US forests (Dana 1956, Rodgers 1991). Among the first Americans to study forestry at a European university, Gifford Pinchot recognized that the intensive agronomic model of European forestry would have to be adapted to the very different environmental, economic, and social conditions that prevailed in the United States at the end of the nineteenth century (Pinchot 1947, Miller 2008). In Europe, land was the limiting factor of production. In the United States, labor and capital were the limiting factors, and land was still relatively cheap and abundant—the very conditions that had led to the wasteful exploitation of American forests with little or no reinvestment in renewable, sustainable natural resource management (Andrews 1999). Critical to Pinchot’s success in advocating for forest conservation and sustainable management were arguments made on moral and ethical grounds—the responsibility to manage natural resources for the benefit of the general public interest rather than the profit of a few private individuals, and the responsibility to ensure that natural resources continued to be sufficiently available to future generations (Pinchot 1910, Miller 2001). Conservation Ethics in Policy and Management Practice In democratic societies, widely acknowledged and generally accepted ethical principles typically become codified in law or policy. Even in American society, so firmly grounded in the ideal of personal liberty and Constitutionally protected individual freedoms, there is recognition that the exercise of these freedoms can at some point have negative consequences beyond the individual, for one’s neighbors, one’s community, or the nation as a whole. It is when these indirect consequences are recognized that general norms become institutionalized in law and regulation, to balance the rights of individuals with those of society as a whole, and to provide a basis for fair and equitable judicial resolution when conflicts arise. In his explication of the need for a land ethic, Aldo Leopold drew from Homer’s Odyssey to illustrate how societies evolve in terms of human rights and the extension of ethical treatment to all segments of society. Odysseus was a righteous, law-abiding citizen when he returned home from the wars in Troy and “hanged all on one rope” a dozen slave-girls of his household whom he suspected of misbehavior during his absence. “The hanging involved no question of propriety,” Leopold explained. “The girls were property. The disposal of property was then, as now, a matter of expediency, not of right and wrong” (Leopold 1949). Odysseus’s actions were not considered murder. The circle of ethical treatment at the time included the free citizens of Ithaca but did not yet extend to slaves. A series of landmark laws that literally define the advance of human civilization have continued to expand that circle over recent centuries—the Magna Carta, Bill of Rights in the US Constitution, Emancipation Proclamation, Nineteenth Amendment, Indian Citizenship Act, and Civil Rights Act each extended the right of ethical treatment to individuals who previously had no such rights. None of these ethical milestones were achieved without controversy and strife. Extending rights to new segments of society involved near-term costs to certain dominant segments of society in terms of new limitations on their behavior or activities. But as these costs are gradually absorbed and become the new norm, these segments of society share in the broader benefits and accomplishments of a more inclusive, diverse, and just society (Gintis et al. 2008, Bowles and Gintis 1998). Only recently have scholars begun to fully appreciate the significance of the Endangered Species Act (16 U.S.C. 1531) as a turning point in the history of Western thought—it was the first statute to extend legal rights and protection to species other than humanity (Nash 1989). Leopold first articulated the principle of a conservation ethic in 1933 (Leopold 1933), but it would be another 40 years before this principle would become codified in law in the Endangered Species Act of 1973, and reinforced in the National Forest Management Act of 1976 (16 U.S.C. 1600) and other reform legislation of the late twentieth century (42 U.S.C. 4321). A growing appreciation for the interconnectedness of all species including humanity has informed an evolving philosophy of conservation, and its integration into a body of statutory and case law that reflects both scientific and ethical advances in the management of US forests. Conclusion The development of a clear, direct, and operational conservation ethic as a basis for forest management has paralleled the advances in the science of ecology for more than a century, and today provides a normative basis for ecological forestry that is well articulated in policy and law. From Marsh’s 1864 call to action in Man and Nature to today’s efforts to redirect the potentially catastrophic course of climate change, scientific advances have informed ethical development, and vice versa. Our understanding of the structure and function of forests has proceeded from the level of individual organisms to landscape-scale ecosystems, and is now reflected in a vast body of literature in ecological science. Recognition of the essential role that disturbance plays in the development of forest ecosystems (Pickett and White 1985, Attiwill 1994, White and Jentsch 2001, Meurant 2012) redefined forest conservation and restoration practices, and has revolutionized long-standing approaches to fire management (Pyne 1982, Pyne 2011). A fresh look at Native American land management practices prior to European colonization, particularly relating to the use of fire (Dods 2002), has engendered a deeper appreciation for the indigenous peoples’ technical understanding of forest ecosystem processes (Anderson 2005), but also for the ethical underpinnings of their patterns of resource use and stewardship (Cronon 1983, Butzer 1990, Delcourt 1987, Williams 1989, Williams 2000, Stewart 2002, Vale 2002). More explicit instruction on the role of ethical consideration in forest management practice would be a valuable component in academic and professional education. Recent surveys of forestry employers, educators, and recent graduates of forestry degree programs at universities across the United States consistently identify ethics and the integration of ethics in forest management decision making as a core competency—one that is expected of baccalaureate graduates, with further development through graduate study and continuing professional education (Sample et al. 2015, Bullard et al. 2014, Sample et al. 1999). It has been suggested that a series of case studies encompassing frequently encountered circumstances would be a useful approach to educating and preparing forest managers to apply ethical principles in the field (Minteer and Collins 2005). A deeper understanding and practical familiarity with normative ethics in ecological forestry can be further encouraged through professional societies, through their roles as accrediting bodies for forestry education and through continuing professional education. In 1992, the largest forestry professional society in the United States, the Society of American Foresters, adopted a “land ethic canon” to include the preservation of ecological integrity in its code of ethics (Smyth 1995, Brown and Harris 1998, List 2000). The organization had first considered the topic in response to an unsuccessful 1974 petition from more than 150 of its members to establish a working group on “ecological forestry” (Coufal 1989). The Forest Stewards Guild, another US-based forestry professional society, has a primary focus on promoting ecological forestry, citing Leopold’s land ethic as its organizing principle and central tenet (Forest Stewards Guild 1995). The ethical basis for the sustainable management of forests preceded and helped motivate the development of forest science more than a century ago, and today plays a more prominent role than ever, in the practice of ecological forestry. The ecological science that prevailed in the early twentieth century, based on the Clementsian model of stable, linear, and predictable succession after disturbances, had a major influence on the early development of scientific forestry. This influence continued to guide the practice of silviculture and forest management into the late twentieth century, well after ecological science had transitioned to less deterministic ecosystem-based models. Ecosystem ecology acknowledged the complexity and local variability of interactions among a large number of biotic and abiotic factors, and the difficulty of accurately predicting the outcome of natural disturbances and human interventions. Ecological forestry accepts that the results of human management interventions in forest ecosystems are far more difficult to predict than has been generally assumed for much of the twentieth century. Whether a given management intervention will lead toward certain social goals, from the conservation of biological diversity to the production of a broader set of goods and services from forests, is a working hypothesis to be tested through close monitoring, evaluation, and adjustment. Collectively monitoring the results of many small-scale forest management interventions at the large landscape scale is key to maintaining the overall resilience of forest ecosystems to future shocks and disturbances, whether natural or human. A core premise of ecological forestry is that such systems for monitoring patterns in the change and responses of forest ecosystems are essential to maintaining basic ecosystem processes and functions that often cannot be observed directly. Ecological forestry serves as a means by which forest land managers and landowners can achieve normative goals—personal as well as societal—that reflect the conservation ethic articulated philosophically by Leopold and others, and since institutionalized in law, policy, and professional ethics in the practice of forestry. This intertwining of ethical advance and normative development with the evolving concepts of ecosystem ecology is not so much a limitation on forestry as it has been practiced in the past as it is a recognition that managing to sustain the resilience of forest ecosystems can be a practical and feasible means of achieving environmental, economic, and societal goals in a manner that is ethically as well as scientifically sound. As the effects of climate change on forest ecosystems are becoming more readily apparent, particularly in the western United States, a historic shift may be taking place in the fundamental goals of forest ecosystem management, from sustainability as we have understood it for most of the past century, to resilience as we are just beginning to understand it (Folke 2006, Peterson et al. 1998). In a more static world, the focus was on the stewardship of existing forests—their species, their habitats, and their array of economic goods and ecological services. In a more dynamic world, the focus is increasingly on maintaining ecosystem patterns and process to the extent possible (Gunderson 2000). When forest ecosystem management was considered primarily in terms of sustainability, society debated what resources and values forest managers should maintain, and for whom. The subsequent refocusing on resilience has shifted the attention to managing risk, and to the extent possible maintaining a broad array of future options. Certain “resilient sites” may serve as refugia for existing ecological communities for longer than will be possible in the larger landscape (Anderson et al. 2014, Anderson et al. 2012), but biodiversity conservation is concentrating less on maintaining the existing species and communities in situ, and more on maintaining communities with high levels of species diversity, net ecosystem productivity, and other metrics of functional though dynamic ecosystems (Marris 2013, Kareiva et al. 2011). Forested watersheds will continue to be essential in managing the interception, storage, and release of precipitation to sustain water supplies, water quality, and minimum critical flows for aquatic habitat and human uses. That headwaters and key tributary watersheds remain forested may be more important than the fact that the species that will be present in the future may be very different from those in the past or present. Where disturbance from wildfires, and from extensive forest mortality due to insects, disease, drought, and higher temperatures, is already pressing or exceeding the historic range of variation, both the scientific and ethical basis for forest ecosystem management will confront new challenges. For example, whether forest managers should facilitate “assisted migration”—reforesting not with currently local species and provenances, but with those adapted to the altered climate conditions that are expected in future decades (Williams and Dumroese 2016)—entails questions not just about scientific and technical feasibility, but also about ethical considerations and implications. 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University Press of Colorado , Denver . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS 16 U.S.C . 531 . Multiple-Use Sustained-Yield Act of June 12, 1960. P.L. 86–517; 74 Stat. 215. 16 U.S.C . 1531 . Endangered Species Act of December 28, 1973. P.L. 93–205; 87 Stat. 884, as amended. 16 U.S.C . 1600 . National Forest Management Act of October 22, 1976. P.L. 94–588; 90 Stat. 2949, as amended. 42 U.S.C . 4321. National Environmental Policy Act of January 1, 1970. P.L. 91–190; 83 Stat. 852. © 2018 Society of American Foresters This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices) http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of Forestry Oxford University Press

Normative and Ethical Foundations of Ecological Forestry in the United States

Journal of Forestry , Volume Advance Article (4) – May 31, 2018

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© 2018 Society of American Foresters
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0022-1201
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1938-3746
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Abstract

Abstract Ecological forestry is the product of simultaneous evolutions of ecological science and conservation ethics over the past century. The early development of forest science and practice was strongly influenced by deterministic ecological models of succession in response to disturbance, and has been influenced more recently by ecosystem ecology principles that emphasize a higher level of complexity and uncertainty. Subjective societal values regarding forests have evolved as well, as principles of conservation ethics have been incorporated into forest policies and professional ethics. This intertwining of normative development with advances in ecosystem ecology provides a means by which forest managers and landowners can accomplish normative goals—personal as well as societal—in forest policies and practices. conservation ethic, stewardship, ecosystem management, ecological science Management and Policy Implications The institutional, legal, and policy framework for forest management in the United States has changed significantly in recent decades in response to advances in ecological science, but also in response to the ongoing evolution in normative and ethical values in American society. Past surveys of forestry employers, educators, and recent graduates consistently point out the need for greater emphasis in forestry curricula on the development of these normative and ethical values, and how they influence the development of new forest policies and practices. This may be increasingly important in the context of accelerating environmental change as risk management and the maintenance of ecological patterns and processes play greater roles in forest management decision making. Similarly, a more explicit consideration of normative and ethical foundations is essential to the success of open and transparent collaborative forest planning processes as their emphasis shifts from sustaining traditional resources, goods, and services in a relatively static environment to maintaining the resilience of forest ecosystems to produce goods and services deemed important to society in an environment increasingly characterized by dynamism and uncertainty. Ecological forestry is based on both scientific and ethical principles, each of which continue to evolve, and to inform one another. Ecological science has undergone a fundamental shift from the deterministic models of natural succession that dominated the field for much of the twentieth century, to the more dynamic and contingent models that now characterize ecosystem ecology. Just as the early models of forest ecology influenced the development of forest science and sustained-yield forest management, forest ecosystem management today acknowledges the increased complexity and uncertainties of ecosystem ecology, and the necessity of adaptive approaches that rely more heavily upon monitoring, evaluation, and adjustment. At the same time, society’s normative values regarding forests have evolved from the earliest articulations of moral and ethical considerations, to be broadly incorporated into forestry law, policy, and professional ethics. “Ecological forestry” represents an intertwining of this parallel evolution in ecological science and conservation ethics, and serves as a mechanism by which normative values are internalized in forest management policy and practice. Influence of Evolving Ecological Science Definitions of ecosystem-based forest management, or “ecological forestry,” have been refined over the past several decades, generally as being based upon natural processes of disturbance and succession, allowing managers to meet economic objectives without compromising the ecological values of forests (Leopold 1933, Minckler 1974, Passmore 1980, Rolston 1991, Seymour and Hunter 1999, Rolston 2012; Franklin and Johnson 2013; Batavia and Nelson 2017). Ecological forestry developed gradually over the course of the twentieth century as the biological sciences shifted from a focus on individual organisms in isolation, to species associations, to ecological communities, and ultimately to landscape-scale ecosystems—and from models that assumed stability and predictability to models based on complexity and contingency (Skillen 2015). Ecosystem ecology arose from research in the early twentieth century on the development of plant communities, particularly in the aftermath of natural disturbances such as fires, or human disturbances such as clearing for agriculture. Frederic Clements, whose theories dominated the field of ecology for much of the first half of the twentieth century, asserted that plant communities act almost as organisms unto themselves, and follow a consistent and predictable pathway toward a successional climax association of species (Clements 1905). Subsequent disturbances may result in setbacks, but the mechanistic process could be expected to pick up where it left off in a steady progression toward the climax state. This Clementsian perspective strongly influenced the development of forest management in the United States, suggesting that by eliminating natural disturbances such as fire and insects, and replacing them with controlled disturbances in the form of timber harvesting and silvicultural treatments (e.g., thinning), the mechanistic tendencies of natural succession could be harnessed to produce reliable yields of desirable tree species (Hawley 1929, Chapman 1931, Clements 1935). As early as the 1920s, other ecologists such as Henry Gleason observed that this kind of mechanistic and predictable process of plant succession was not borne out by field studies, which found a high degree of variation in the way plant communities developed after disturbance. Gleason proposed an alternative theory that development was as much a function of conditions and random events specific to a given site (Gleason 1926). It was a view not readily accepted by mainstream ecologists of the time (Skillen 2015). Meanwhile, Oxford ecologist Arthur Tansley introduced the idea that understanding succession in plant communities required consideration of not just the interaction among the plant species themselves, but the more complex interplay among the entire array of plants and animals present, and abiotic factors such as soil, temperature, wind, and water—a unit of analysis that Tansley termed an “ecosystem” (Tansley 1935, Golley 1996). By the 1950s, Tansley’s more comprehensive approach opened the door to the next major era in ecological science, that of “ecosystem ecology.” Led by ecologists such as Eugene Odum, ecosystem ecology introduced the study of flows of nutrients and energy through ecosystems as a way of measuring and quantifying the underlying biophysical processes that result in ecological stability (Odum 1959). This approach to understanding the “biogeochemistry” of ecosystems became the basis for a rich outpouring of research in ecosystems ecology, most notably at the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest in New Hampshire (Bormann and Likens 1979a). It also provided a detailed and quantitative approach to assessing the impact of major disturbances in forest ecosystems, including clearcutting (Likens et al. 1978, Bormann and Likens 1979b). Mounting evidence from a proliferation of quantitative field studies gradually invalidated the earlier ecological models that assumed stability and predictability. What emerged in the “new ecology” were ecosystem models that recognized far greater complexity and interplay among an array of dynamic factors. Ecologists struggling to make sense of these complex systems developed a hierarchical approach, breaking the entire system down into a set of subsystems, and then analyzing the interactions between these subsystems. All the while, however, they could not lose sight of the challenge of putting it all together in a way that could explain the overall patterns and processes observed in the field, leading ecologist Frank Egler to observe that an ecosystem is “not only more complex than we think; it is more complex than we can think” (Egler 1977). Forest Management and Ecological Uncertainty Forest resource managers were in a quandary. Having been advised that the mainstream ecological science that had guided their decisions for most of the twentieth century was no longer valid, they sought something to replace it. It was not much help to managers or policymakers to be told by the country’s leading ecologists that forest ecosystems are just complex, dynamic, and chaotic, and therefore difficult to understand and manage. In 1989, the National Academy of Sciences appointed a special commission to assess the state of forestry research, especially as a source of guidance to forest managers striving to comply with laws and regulations requiring the conservation of biological diversity. The commission’s report opened with the following statement: Although concern about and interest in the global role and fate of forests are currently great, the existing level of knowledge about forests is inadequate to develop sound forest management policies. Current knowledge and patterns of research will not result in sufficiently accurate predictions of the consequences of potentially harmful influences on forests, including forest management practices that lack a sound basis in biological knowledge. This deficiency will reduce our ability to maintain or enhance forest productivity, recreation, and conservation as well as our ability to ameliorate or adapt to changes in the global environment. To help overcome this unfortunate deficiency in knowledge, a new research paradigm will need to be adopted—an environmental paradigm. (National Research Council 1990) From the perspective of many ecologists, forest policy and management practices at the time were still fundamentally rooted in the Clementsian view that ecosystems are inherently stable and predictable, and that through carefully controlled interventions (e.g., regeneration harvests to maintain a mosaic of forest openings of various age classes across large landscapes, mimicking large, stand-replacing fires in fire-adapted forest ecosystems, or selective cutting to promote the development of stand structures characteristic of old-growth forests) forest managers could create the conditions that would result in maintaining biological diversity while continuing to produce an array of other goods and services (Holling 1973). Although ecosystem ecology could not promise predictability in the Clementsian sense, ecologists asserted that a model that reflected the dynamism of ecosystems could still serve as a useful guide in forest policy and management (Ludwig et al. 1997, Folke et al. 2002). There was a growing body of scientific literature documenting how forests and other ecosystems are able to maintain their basic ecological processes and functions over long periods of time in spite of repeated disturbance—their resilience (Peterson et al. 1998). If forest policy and management practices truly sought to “mimic nature” in order to maintain biological diversity and other characteristics (and potential products) of well-functioning forest ecosystems, then, it was argued, they would need to relinquish their hold on the illusion of command-and-control forest management, embrace the dynamism and “surprises” of naturally functioning ecosystems, and manage instead to maintain the underlying resiliency in forest ecosystems (Holling 1996, Walker et al. 2004, Holling 1986). Not that this was something simple or easy to accomplish. Human disturbances like timber harvesting would have to reflect patterns of natural disturbances in terms of timing, scale, intensity, and other characteristics in which the underlying resiliency of the ecosystem is maintained. Even natural disturbances of sufficient scale and intensity, such as a hurricane or volcanic eruption, can exceed the capacity of the ecosystem to absorb the shock and maintain functions and processes. A new and equally functional ecosystem may develop with its own patterns, processes, and resiliency to future shocks, but it will be fundamentally different from the ecosystem it replaced (Folke et al. 2004). Central to the concept that a primary goal of forest management is to maintain ecosystem resiliency is the recognition that there are thresholds that can be approached but not exceeded. This concept may seem to closely parallel the concept of “sustained yield,” that has been in use for more than a century, defined in statute as “the achievement and maintenance in perpetuity of a high-level annual or regular periodic output of the various renewable resources of [forests] without impairment of the productivity of the land” (16 U.S.C. 531). But this approach to forest management implicitly assumes that the problem is well-bounded, clearly defined, relatively simple, and generally linear with respect to cause and effect. But when these same methods of control are applied to a complex, nonlinear, and poorly understood natural world, and when the same predictable outcomes are expected but rarely obtained, severe ecological, social, and economic repercussions result. (Holling and Meffe 1996) Forest managers, and to a lesser extent natural resource policymakers, are coming to grips with an unprecedented level of uncertainty, and of forest management planning and decision making that is more akin to continuous experimentation. The practice of “adaptive management” is one of local management interventions being considered within their larger regional context, followed by intensive monitoring to determine the actual response of the ecosystem to these management actions, by evaluation of the results relative to management and policy goals, and by adjustments in approach prior to similar management actions being taken again. Due to its experimental nature, adaptive management also requires an unprecedented level of ongoing coordination and collaboration between scientists and managers (Lubchenco 1998, NCSSF 2005). Formal “science-management teams” are common in forest management agencies as adaptive management has become standard practice on public forests, and on large regional landscapes that encompass a variety of public and privately owned forests (Halofsky et al. 2011, Peterson et al. 2011, Halofsky and Peterson 2016). This adaptive management approach, with close coordination of science and management, is also becoming critically important as forest managers grapple with the greatly increased level of uncertainty associated with the effects of global environmental change on forests (Millar et al. 2007, Peterson et al. 2011, Sample et al. 2014, Sample et al. 2016). Influence of Evolving Conservation Ethics Ethical and normative considerations have developed in parallel with the concepts of ecological forestry, and played a significant role in originally motivating the science that became ecosystem ecology. As early as 1827, James Fenimore Cooper in his Leatherstocking series of novels condemned resource exploitation and waste on the American frontier: “They scourge the very Earth with their axes. Such hills and hunting grounds have I seen stripped of the gifts of the Lord, without remorse or shame” (Nevins 1954). Landscape painter George Catlin wrote of the overcutting and land abuse that he observed in the American West, and in 1832 may have been the first to propose the removal of lands from the public domain to be reserved as national parks (Cortner and Moote 1999). It has been argued that such early voices for natural resource conservation were motivated more by utilitarian concerns over resource depletion and its economic impacts, rather than ethical concerns (Nash 1967). But at this point in American history, resource shortages had yet to manifest themselves except perhaps at the local level, and Cooper’s invoking of the divine suggests a sense of moral outrage as much as a repugnance for the sheer destruction and waste of valuable natural resources. The ethics and science of natural resource use became intertwined with the publication of Thoreau’s Walden (1854) and works by other Transcendentalists including Ralph Waldo Emerson and Nathaniel Hawthorne (Shanley 1971, Nash 1989, Buell 1996), and more forcefully with the subsequent publication of George Perkins Marsh’s book Man and Nature, or Physical Geography as Modified by Human Action (Marsh 1964). Marsh’s book was based on his observations of the landscapes surrounding the Mediterranean Sea while traveling there as US ambassador to Italy. The great forests of the eastern Mediterranean and what is now southern Turkey had once supplied enough wood to build Cleopatra’s fleet of ships, and north Africa had served as a major source of wood and grain throughout the Greek and Roman empires. Yet by Marsh’s time, these landscapes were far different. If we compare the present physical condition of the countries of which I am speaking with the descriptions that ancient historians and geographers have given of their fertility and general capability of ministering to human uses, we shall find that more than one half of their whole extent—including the provinces most celebrated for the profusion and variety of their spontaneous and cultivated products, and for the wealth and social advancement of their inhabitants—is either deserted by civilized man and surrendered to hopeless desolation, or at least greatly reduced in both productiveness and population. Vast forests have disappeared from mountains and ridges. . . . rivers famous in history and song have shrunk to humble brooklets. (Marsh 1864) Abuse of the land had been at least partially responsible for the decline in the Mediterranean empires, in both ecological and economic terms, Marsh believed. Having witnessed the destructive exploitation of forests in his native United States, he urged his countrymen to “be wise in time, and profit by the errors of our older brethren.” Several thousand copies of Man and Nature were sold, an extraordinary number for the time, and it went through several reprints and updates through to his death in 1882. These new insights helped bring about a major shift in society’s attitudes toward the land and its resources, which up to then were influenced by the sense that any human impact on the natural world could be no more than benign or negligible. To the extent that there was any moral or ethical consideration, human influences on the natural world seemed justified by the Bible’s admonition in Genesis to “fill the Earth and subdue it; and have dominion over every living things that moves upon the Earth.” Marsh considered this passage, and the placement of Man in the Garden of Eden to “till it and keep it,” as inculcating long-term stewardship and sense of responsibility to later generations, rather than near-term exploitation for immediate individual gain: “Man has too long forgotten that the Earth was given to him for usufruct alone, not for consumption, still less for profligate waste . . . the thriftlessness of former generations have imposed upon their successors . . . the command of religion and practical wisdom, to use this world but not abuse it.” An archaic term, “usufruct” is defined as “the right of using and enjoying the fruits or profits of something belonging to another,” and Marsh’s numerous references to responsibilities to future generations indicated an ethic that some considered as limited to humanity (Nash 1989). However, Marsh also censured a “lack of sympathy for those humble creatures which men too selfishly consider as at all times subject to their irresponsible dominion, as without individual rights and interests of their own.” “He whose sympathies with nature have taught him to feel that there is a fellowship between all God’s creatures,” wrote Marsh, “will not rashly assert his right to extirpate a tribe of harmless vegetables, barely because their products neither tickle his palate nor fill his pocket.” This notion of the intrinsic rights and value of species of no economic use to humanity foreshadows its articulation decades later by Aldo Leopold (1933) and others. The suggestion that species other than humanity actually have “rights and interests” would not be addressed in law until more than a century later. Marsh’s Man and Nature was widely cited as a seminal text by the founders and leaders of several new organizations that formed the Conservation Movement of the late nineteenth century, and Marsh was widely considered “the father of conservation” in the United States (Lowenthal 2000). By the time of its publication in 1864, the economic and social consequences of America’s wasteful exploitation of its forest resources, as well as the environmental impacts, were becoming widely recognized (Hays 1959). The scientific management of forests for sustained yield was already well developed in Europe by this time (Fernow 1913, Heske 1938, Watkins 1998, Spiecker 2008, Sample 2008), and European foresters such as Bernhard Fernow and Carl Schenck helped introduce these principles to the management of US forests (Dana 1956, Rodgers 1991). Among the first Americans to study forestry at a European university, Gifford Pinchot recognized that the intensive agronomic model of European forestry would have to be adapted to the very different environmental, economic, and social conditions that prevailed in the United States at the end of the nineteenth century (Pinchot 1947, Miller 2008). In Europe, land was the limiting factor of production. In the United States, labor and capital were the limiting factors, and land was still relatively cheap and abundant—the very conditions that had led to the wasteful exploitation of American forests with little or no reinvestment in renewable, sustainable natural resource management (Andrews 1999). Critical to Pinchot’s success in advocating for forest conservation and sustainable management were arguments made on moral and ethical grounds—the responsibility to manage natural resources for the benefit of the general public interest rather than the profit of a few private individuals, and the responsibility to ensure that natural resources continued to be sufficiently available to future generations (Pinchot 1910, Miller 2001). Conservation Ethics in Policy and Management Practice In democratic societies, widely acknowledged and generally accepted ethical principles typically become codified in law or policy. Even in American society, so firmly grounded in the ideal of personal liberty and Constitutionally protected individual freedoms, there is recognition that the exercise of these freedoms can at some point have negative consequences beyond the individual, for one’s neighbors, one’s community, or the nation as a whole. It is when these indirect consequences are recognized that general norms become institutionalized in law and regulation, to balance the rights of individuals with those of society as a whole, and to provide a basis for fair and equitable judicial resolution when conflicts arise. In his explication of the need for a land ethic, Aldo Leopold drew from Homer’s Odyssey to illustrate how societies evolve in terms of human rights and the extension of ethical treatment to all segments of society. Odysseus was a righteous, law-abiding citizen when he returned home from the wars in Troy and “hanged all on one rope” a dozen slave-girls of his household whom he suspected of misbehavior during his absence. “The hanging involved no question of propriety,” Leopold explained. “The girls were property. The disposal of property was then, as now, a matter of expediency, not of right and wrong” (Leopold 1949). Odysseus’s actions were not considered murder. The circle of ethical treatment at the time included the free citizens of Ithaca but did not yet extend to slaves. A series of landmark laws that literally define the advance of human civilization have continued to expand that circle over recent centuries—the Magna Carta, Bill of Rights in the US Constitution, Emancipation Proclamation, Nineteenth Amendment, Indian Citizenship Act, and Civil Rights Act each extended the right of ethical treatment to individuals who previously had no such rights. None of these ethical milestones were achieved without controversy and strife. Extending rights to new segments of society involved near-term costs to certain dominant segments of society in terms of new limitations on their behavior or activities. But as these costs are gradually absorbed and become the new norm, these segments of society share in the broader benefits and accomplishments of a more inclusive, diverse, and just society (Gintis et al. 2008, Bowles and Gintis 1998). Only recently have scholars begun to fully appreciate the significance of the Endangered Species Act (16 U.S.C. 1531) as a turning point in the history of Western thought—it was the first statute to extend legal rights and protection to species other than humanity (Nash 1989). Leopold first articulated the principle of a conservation ethic in 1933 (Leopold 1933), but it would be another 40 years before this principle would become codified in law in the Endangered Species Act of 1973, and reinforced in the National Forest Management Act of 1976 (16 U.S.C. 1600) and other reform legislation of the late twentieth century (42 U.S.C. 4321). A growing appreciation for the interconnectedness of all species including humanity has informed an evolving philosophy of conservation, and its integration into a body of statutory and case law that reflects both scientific and ethical advances in the management of US forests. Conclusion The development of a clear, direct, and operational conservation ethic as a basis for forest management has paralleled the advances in the science of ecology for more than a century, and today provides a normative basis for ecological forestry that is well articulated in policy and law. From Marsh’s 1864 call to action in Man and Nature to today’s efforts to redirect the potentially catastrophic course of climate change, scientific advances have informed ethical development, and vice versa. Our understanding of the structure and function of forests has proceeded from the level of individual organisms to landscape-scale ecosystems, and is now reflected in a vast body of literature in ecological science. Recognition of the essential role that disturbance plays in the development of forest ecosystems (Pickett and White 1985, Attiwill 1994, White and Jentsch 2001, Meurant 2012) redefined forest conservation and restoration practices, and has revolutionized long-standing approaches to fire management (Pyne 1982, Pyne 2011). A fresh look at Native American land management practices prior to European colonization, particularly relating to the use of fire (Dods 2002), has engendered a deeper appreciation for the indigenous peoples’ technical understanding of forest ecosystem processes (Anderson 2005), but also for the ethical underpinnings of their patterns of resource use and stewardship (Cronon 1983, Butzer 1990, Delcourt 1987, Williams 1989, Williams 2000, Stewart 2002, Vale 2002). More explicit instruction on the role of ethical consideration in forest management practice would be a valuable component in academic and professional education. Recent surveys of forestry employers, educators, and recent graduates of forestry degree programs at universities across the United States consistently identify ethics and the integration of ethics in forest management decision making as a core competency—one that is expected of baccalaureate graduates, with further development through graduate study and continuing professional education (Sample et al. 2015, Bullard et al. 2014, Sample et al. 1999). It has been suggested that a series of case studies encompassing frequently encountered circumstances would be a useful approach to educating and preparing forest managers to apply ethical principles in the field (Minteer and Collins 2005). A deeper understanding and practical familiarity with normative ethics in ecological forestry can be further encouraged through professional societies, through their roles as accrediting bodies for forestry education and through continuing professional education. In 1992, the largest forestry professional society in the United States, the Society of American Foresters, adopted a “land ethic canon” to include the preservation of ecological integrity in its code of ethics (Smyth 1995, Brown and Harris 1998, List 2000). The organization had first considered the topic in response to an unsuccessful 1974 petition from more than 150 of its members to establish a working group on “ecological forestry” (Coufal 1989). The Forest Stewards Guild, another US-based forestry professional society, has a primary focus on promoting ecological forestry, citing Leopold’s land ethic as its organizing principle and central tenet (Forest Stewards Guild 1995). The ethical basis for the sustainable management of forests preceded and helped motivate the development of forest science more than a century ago, and today plays a more prominent role than ever, in the practice of ecological forestry. The ecological science that prevailed in the early twentieth century, based on the Clementsian model of stable, linear, and predictable succession after disturbances, had a major influence on the early development of scientific forestry. This influence continued to guide the practice of silviculture and forest management into the late twentieth century, well after ecological science had transitioned to less deterministic ecosystem-based models. Ecosystem ecology acknowledged the complexity and local variability of interactions among a large number of biotic and abiotic factors, and the difficulty of accurately predicting the outcome of natural disturbances and human interventions. Ecological forestry accepts that the results of human management interventions in forest ecosystems are far more difficult to predict than has been generally assumed for much of the twentieth century. Whether a given management intervention will lead toward certain social goals, from the conservation of biological diversity to the production of a broader set of goods and services from forests, is a working hypothesis to be tested through close monitoring, evaluation, and adjustment. Collectively monitoring the results of many small-scale forest management interventions at the large landscape scale is key to maintaining the overall resilience of forest ecosystems to future shocks and disturbances, whether natural or human. A core premise of ecological forestry is that such systems for monitoring patterns in the change and responses of forest ecosystems are essential to maintaining basic ecosystem processes and functions that often cannot be observed directly. Ecological forestry serves as a means by which forest land managers and landowners can achieve normative goals—personal as well as societal—that reflect the conservation ethic articulated philosophically by Leopold and others, and since institutionalized in law, policy, and professional ethics in the practice of forestry. This intertwining of ethical advance and normative development with the evolving concepts of ecosystem ecology is not so much a limitation on forestry as it has been practiced in the past as it is a recognition that managing to sustain the resilience of forest ecosystems can be a practical and feasible means of achieving environmental, economic, and societal goals in a manner that is ethically as well as scientifically sound. As the effects of climate change on forest ecosystems are becoming more readily apparent, particularly in the western United States, a historic shift may be taking place in the fundamental goals of forest ecosystem management, from sustainability as we have understood it for most of the past century, to resilience as we are just beginning to understand it (Folke 2006, Peterson et al. 1998). In a more static world, the focus was on the stewardship of existing forests—their species, their habitats, and their array of economic goods and ecological services. In a more dynamic world, the focus is increasingly on maintaining ecosystem patterns and process to the extent possible (Gunderson 2000). When forest ecosystem management was considered primarily in terms of sustainability, society debated what resources and values forest managers should maintain, and for whom. The subsequent refocusing on resilience has shifted the attention to managing risk, and to the extent possible maintaining a broad array of future options. Certain “resilient sites” may serve as refugia for existing ecological communities for longer than will be possible in the larger landscape (Anderson et al. 2014, Anderson et al. 2012), but biodiversity conservation is concentrating less on maintaining the existing species and communities in situ, and more on maintaining communities with high levels of species diversity, net ecosystem productivity, and other metrics of functional though dynamic ecosystems (Marris 2013, Kareiva et al. 2011). Forested watersheds will continue to be essential in managing the interception, storage, and release of precipitation to sustain water supplies, water quality, and minimum critical flows for aquatic habitat and human uses. That headwaters and key tributary watersheds remain forested may be more important than the fact that the species that will be present in the future may be very different from those in the past or present. Where disturbance from wildfires, and from extensive forest mortality due to insects, disease, drought, and higher temperatures, is already pressing or exceeding the historic range of variation, both the scientific and ethical basis for forest ecosystem management will confront new challenges. For example, whether forest managers should facilitate “assisted migration”—reforesting not with currently local species and provenances, but with those adapted to the altered climate conditions that are expected in future decades (Williams and Dumroese 2016)—entails questions not just about scientific and technical feasibility, but also about ethical considerations and implications. 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Journal of ForestryOxford University Press

Published: May 31, 2018

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