Spirituality in Forest Management

A Conceptual Framework for Empirical Research


  • Catharina de Pater Wageningen University and Research
  • Birgit Elands Wageningen University and Research
  • Bas Verschuuren Wageningen University and Research




Spiritual values, spirituality, forests, sustainable forest management, family resemblance approach, dimensions of religion, nature experience


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. 

Author Biographies

Birgit Elands, Wageningen University and Research

Assistant Professor, Forest and Nature Conservation Policy Chair Group

Bas Verschuuren, Wageningen University and Research

Lecturer, Forest and Nature Conservation Policy Chair Group


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How to Cite

de Pater, C. ., Elands, B. ., & Verschuuren, B. . (2021). Spirituality in Forest Management: A Conceptual Framework for Empirical Research. Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, 15(2), 204–228. https://doi.org/10.1558/jsrnc.41999