Spiritual Values in the Practice of Forest Management

How do forest and nature managers integrate spiritual values in their daily management practices? How do they attend to users' seeking and demands for spiritual experience?

These questions are studied by Masters students supervised by Cathrien and other staff of Wageningen University and Research.

On-going research 

Sonja Greil (2020-21): On the trail of intangible values. Spiritual values in forest management practices in the Netherlands.

Spiritual values (SVs) are included in the concept of sustainable forest management of international forest-related policies and strategies. However, little is known about the implementation of these intangible values in the practice of Dutch forest management. These policies and strategies are not only important for countries of indigenous people but also in the Netherlands where despite an increasing secularisation 31% of the population consider themselves spiritual. Moreover, spirituality plays a role in developing resilience in times of crisis which could mean that during the Corona crisis more people are drawn to nature areas for not only the health benefits of nature but also to experience spirituality. To be able to give Forest Managers (FMs) tools to implement SVs in practice and respond to demands related to spirituality from the public it is crucial to understand what role these values currently play in management practices.
The objective of this research is therefore to better understand the role and dynamics of SVs in forest management practice by investigating the forest managers’ perspectives on spirituality in their management activities as well as other stakeholders holding SVs that forest managers find themselves in interaction with.
The main research question is “How do spiritual values play a role in the practice of Dutch forest management?”. This will be answered through investigating the following specific research questions:

  1. What kinds of spiritual values can be distinguished in the practice of forest management?
  2. How are these spiritual values enacted in forest management practices?
  3. What spiritual values are held by different stakeholders interacting with forest managers?

A qualitative research approach will be taken. This research is based on the social science theory of constructivism and makes use of the analytical framework for researching spirituality in the context of forest management as developed by de Pater et al. The aim is to do semi-structured interviews across the Netherlands with 15 FMs and 5 spiritual stakeholders that the FMs find themselves in interaction with. For the analysis a constructivist grounded theory approach will be taken. This approach will de applied for the first two SRQ. For the 3rd SRQ this approach will be mixed with a discourse analytical approach, because relations can be subject to power tensions and therefore the discourse analytical approach can uncover underlying meanings and tensions.