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Northern Research Station
One Gifford Pinchot Drive
Madison, WI 53726
(608) 231-9318
(608) 231-9544 TTY/TDD

Sustaining Forests

Forest Value Orientations in Australia

Research Issue

Since the 1970s, there has been conflict and controversy over the management of Australia’s native forests. Communities have increasingly called for native forests to be managed for a range of conflicting values including conservation and the production of timber and woodchips. Conflicts often arise because of competing forest values and attempts by various groups to alter forest management to be consistent with their value orientations.

Our Research

We used computer-coded content analysis to explore forest values expressed in the public news media discussion in Australia between 1997 and 2004. The final database included 14,413 paragraphs from 4034 relevant stories over the eight-year period.

The analysis highlighted the presence of multiple forest value orientations in news media content, reflecting the public’s multiple value perspective on native forest management. Native forests were most often discussed in a commodity value orientation (focusing on forest products like timber).  Discussions of forests’ ecological or moral/spiritual/aesthetic values were much less common. However, between 1997 and 2004, there was a decrease in the share of the discussion that focused on forests’ commodity value and an increase in the share of the discussion that focused on the ecological, moral, spiritual, and aesthetic values of forests.

There were also several peak periods when the number of stories about native forests went up dramatically. These coincided with events like the 2004 federal election (when native forest management in Tasmania was a key election issue) and the signing of major forest management agreements.

Forest values and value orientations will continue to shift as society changes, and it is vital for public forest managers and policy-makers to monitor and respond to these changes, developing policies and management strategies that are in tune with changing forest values.

Research Results

Webb, Trevor J.; Bengston, David N.; Fan, David P. 2008. Forest value orientations in Australia: an application of computer content analysis. Environmental Management. 41: 52-63.

Research Participants

Principal Investigators

  • David N. Bengston, Research Forester, U.S. Forest Service, Northern Research Station
  • David P. Fan, President of InfoTrend, Inc., and Professor of Genetics, Cell Biology and Development and Adjunct Professor of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Minnesota
  • Trevor Webb, Food Standards Australia New Zealand

Last Modified: 10/29/2010