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Ecosystem Management in the US Forest Service: A Persistent Process but Dying Discourse

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Eleven executives of the US Forest Service were interviewed to explore the current status and meaning of ecosystem management (EM). The main method of inquiry was open-ended questions, but these questions were complemented by a questionnaire, designed to elicit further conversation about ideas often associated with EM. Participants indicated that EM is still practiced by managers but is seldom used in the agency's environmental speech. The idea that EM is of declining importance to the agency's discourse was also supported by the lack of agreement in participant definitions of EM, where the importance of “scale” and “systems thinking” were the only commonly included ideas in participant definitions of EM. Participants commonly noted the ambiguity and controversy surrounding objectives-oriented components of EM, while process-oriented components were widely accepted by our participants. Our analysis suggests that despite the reduced importance of the term ecosystem management, many of EM's component ideas, particularly those addressing management processes, continue to compete in the agency's broader environmental discourse.

Keywords: US Forest Service; ecosystem management; environmental discourse; policy

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2008

More about this publication?
  • 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.
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