With increasing threat from pests and disease, we need to re-examine what forest management is and must do in the 21st century. The sociological concept of ‘care’ offers new understandings of forest management as intimate and emotional relationships between people and trees. In this paper, the authors examine the realities of conservation forest management at a UK publicly owned site to reveal the social, economic, and institutional contexts of care and caring relations and their role in management decisions.

The authors interviewed staff and used participatory data testing to address the complexities of real life decision-making. Through the care framework they highlight the complexities of real-life decision-making and offer implications for forestry policy and practice. They also demonstrate the potential of the single case study for deeply contextual forest and conservation research.

Key points:

  • Care as feelings and activity is integral to the work of forest management.
  • Forests are sustained through caring practices involving relations between people and trees.
  • Context is integral to understanding forest management decisions.
  • Human-nonhuman relations of care may hold the key to more sustainable forest management.