Spirituality in Forest Management: A Conceptual Framework for Empirical Research

C.H. de Pater*, B.H.M. Elands*, B. Verschuuren*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


International forest policies are increasingly recognizing spiritual values as criteria for sustainable forest management. However, knowledge on how spiritual values are articulated in practice is scarce. Because most evidence remains anecdotal, the study of spiritual values in forest management remains unsystematized and under-theorized. Research is complicated by the widely diverging interpretations of the concept of spirituality in relation to forests. Drawing upon Saler’s family resemblances approach (2000 [1993]) and the dimensions of religion posed by Smart (1996, 2002), a framework with seven dimensions is proposed. The framework structures spiritual phenomena relevant to forest management so that they can be studied systematically. It attempts to accommodate the various ontologies and epistemologies connected to spirituality in forest management. We discuss the pros and cons of the framework and make recommendations for its application in the analysis of forest management plans and practices.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)204-228
JournalJournal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 6 Aug 2021


  • nature experience
  • spirituality
  • forests
  • sustainable forest management


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