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Restoring Dignity to Sound Professional Judgment

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Both the scientific community and the judiciary make decisions based on less than complete information, and both acknowledge the reality of uncertainty. The scientific community tends to view certainty as a yes-no phenomenon, demands a high degree of certainty, and considers only several variables at one time. The judiciary, however, uses a sliding scale of certainty, allows a lower degree of certainty, and considers the totality of the situation. For natural resource decisionmakers–people with scientific training whose decisions are subject to judicial review–what should the standard of judgment be? This article examines certainty from both perspectives, argues for the restoration of sound professional judgment as the standard for natural resource decisionmaking, and offers suggestions to improve sound professional judgment.
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Keywords: communication; decision science; environmental management; ethics; forest; forest management; forest resources; forestry; forestry research; forestry science; natural resource management; natural resources

Document Type: Miscellaneous

Affiliations: Professor College of Natural Resources, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, 80523,

Publication date: 2003-09-01

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  • The Journal of Forestry is the most widely circulated scholarly forestry journal in the world. In print since 1902, the Journal has received several national awards for excellence. The mission of the Journal of Forestry is to advance the profession of forestry by keeping forest management professionals informed about significant developments and ideas in the many facets of forestry: economics, education and communication, entomology and pathology, fire, forest ecology, geospatial technologies, history, international forestry, measurements, policy, recreation, silviculture, social sciences, soils and hydrology, urban and community forestry, utilization and engineering, and wildlife management. The Journal is published bimonthly: January, March, May, July, September, and November.

    2016 Impact Factor: 1.675 (Rank 20/64 in forestry)

    Average time from submission to first decision: 39.6 days*
    June 1, 2016 to Feb. 28, 2017

    Also published by SAF:
    Forest Science
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