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Inspired by structured decision making: a collaborative approach to the governance of multiple forest values

Johanna Johansson, School of Natural Sciences, Technology and Environmental Studies, Södertörn University
Camilla Sandström, Department of Political Science, Umeå University
Tomas Lundmark, Department of Forest Ecology and Management, SLU (Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences)


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Since the 2000s, consensus-oriented decision making has become increasingly common in the management of natural resources because of the recognition that collaborative processes may enhance the legitimacy of decision making and facilitate effective implementation. Previous research has identified a number of problems with the design and practical facilitation of collaborative processes. Structured decision making (SDM) has been developed as an alternative suitable for decision making characterized by complexity, stakeholder controversy, and scientific uncertainty. Our aim was to investigate the feasibility and practical relevance of collaboration and dialogue inspired by SDM in the sphere of forest management. The methods used included analyses of meetings records and semistructured interviews with participating stakeholders and organizers of a collaborative process focused on improving the management of Swedish forests in the young forest phase. The results show that the SDM rationale of step-by-step teamwork, the involvement of experts, and guidance by an independent facilitator has a number of merits. These merits included the creation of genuine discussion with careful consideration of different interests and values, thus building trust among stakeholders and the Swedish Forest Agency. However, at the end of the process, some issues still remained unclear, including how the decision options would be made practically useful and accessible to forest owners. Furthermore, concerns were raised about the lack of novelty of the options. As a result, there was uncertainty about the extent to which the options would contribute to a more varied forest landscape given the multiple values involved. We conclude with some remarks on the potential future of engaging SDM in the forestry sector.

Key words

adaptive management; collaboration; forest management; structured decision making

Copyright © 2018 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087