Colorado mountains
From Long-Term Data to Understanding: Toward a Predictive Ecology
2015 LTER ASM Estes Park, CO - August 30 - September 2, 2015

Critical thinking in forest management: An analysis of arguments for and against ecological forestry, with examples from O&C lands in western Oregon

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version

Poster Number: 
Presenter/Primary Author: 
Chelsea Batavia
Dr. Michael P. Nelson

The task of managing forests in the 21st century is complex, not least because decisions are so often surrounded by controversy that erupts when diverse stakeholder perspectives come into conflict with one another. When the social climate is highly contentious, managers and decision-makers are challenged not only to operate in the face of uncertainty, but also to navigate the difficult social terrain of public values. In these situations, argument analysis is a tool that might be used to encourage transparency and facilitate communications between stakeholders, scientists, and decision-makers. With argument analysis, the arguments people use to represent their opinions are formally constructed as a series of premises leading to a conclusion, and then systematically assessed for soundness. For an argument to be sound, its conclusion must follow from its premises, and all of its premises must be true or appropriate. By revealing assumptions, uncertainties, and ambiguities underlying individual premises, argument analysis shows exactly how and why arguments are not supported, and also indicates when an argument probably should not be influential in swaying the direction of a management decision. To demonstrate this process of argument analysis, I will present results from a recent analysis of the arguments being advanced in current debates over the implementation of ecological forestry on the BLM O&C lands in western Oregon. I will highlight problematic empirical and normative premises in the arguments, and also suggest some of the important research gaps that need to be addressed before we can make an informed decision about future management of the O&C lands.

Student Poster Competition: