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Seeing the Forest for the Trees

Managing for Multiple Use in National Forests

Co Authors:

Elizabeth A. Flaherty
Department of Forestry and Natural Resources
Purdue University

Carolyn A. Eckrich
Department of Zoology and Physiology
University of Wyoming

Merav Ben-David
Department of Zoology and Physiology
University of Wyoming


This case study has for its central theme the importance of tree size in both ecology and natural resource management and is designed to introduce components of forest management and policy, the importance of ecological relationships, and the challenge of managing resources for a variety of uses. Students evaluate relevant forest policy and management and discuss the related challenges. They then use basic trigonometry to estimate tree height and board feet in three different management areas from angle measurements obtained using a clinometer. Finally they consider the importance of tree height and forest management on ecological relationships among wildlife and their habitat. The case can be used as an introduction to natural resource management and the importance of multiple use management strategies; as a review of trigonometry and the use of spreadsheet software; or as an example of how mathematical concepts and science are used in natural resource management. This case was developed for use in an introductory environmental science or wildlife management course but could also be used in an advanced science high school course.

  • Discuss challenges related to natural resource management.
  • Define several terms related to forestry, ecology, and conservation biology.
  • Apply trigonometry and algebra to a real-life problem.
  • Understand concepts related to expenses and revenue in the context of resource extraction.
  • Understand the difference between English and Metric measurement systems.
  • Understand the effects of habitat (i.e., forest types) on interactions among animals in a food web.
  • Develop management suggestions based on results and by considering habitat-related policy information and wildlife habitat requirements.
  • Estimate a product using a computer spreadsheet-software such as Excel or hand calculations and analyze the dataset with basic statistics.
Keywords: wildlife management; trigonometry; data analysis; clinometer; forestry; timber; understory; canopy; succession; thinning; national forest; board feet; Prince of Wales Island; POW; Tongass
Topical Area: Policy issues
Educational Level: High school, Undergraduate lower division
Formats: PDF
Type/Method: Interrupted
Language: English
Subject Headings: Ecology   Environmental Science   Forestry   Natural Resource Management   Wildlife Management  
Date Posted: 5/31/2016
Date Modified: N/A
Copyright: Copyright held by the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science, University at Buffalo, State University of New York. Please see our usage guidelines, which outline our policy concerning permissible reproduction of this work.

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