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Environmental Values

Should We Move the Whitebark Pine? Assisted Migration, Ethics and Global Environmental Change

Clare Palmer and Brendon M.H. Larson

Environmental Values 23 (2014): 641-662. doi: 10.3197/096327114X13947900181833


Some species face extinction if they are unable to keep pace with climate change. Yet proposals to assist threatened species' poleward or uphill migration ('assisted migration') have caused significant controversy among conservationists, not least because assisted migration seems to threaten some values, even as it protects others. To date, however, analysis of ethical and value questions about assisted migration has largely remained abstract, removed from the ultimately pragmatic decision about whether or not to move a particular species. This paper uses the case study of the whitebark pine, a keystone species of sub-alpine habitats in western North America, to consider how particular cases of assisted migration may be ethically approached. After taking into account the value of species, wildness, place, ecosystems, culture and sentient animals, we conclude that, on balance, there appear to be good reasons to move the whitebark pine.


Assisted migration, ecosystem values, place values, sentience, wildness, whitebark pine

REFERENCES to other articles in Environmental Values:

Future Generations and Environmental Ethics. Lawrence E. Johnson

Re-Thinking the Unthinkable: Environmental Ethics and the Presumptive Argument Against Geoengineering Christopher J. Preston

On the Moral Considerability of Homo sapiens and Other Species. Ronald Sandler and Judith Crane

CITATIONS in other Environmental Values articles

Editorial: Ethical Intuitions, Welfare, and Permaculture. Isis Brook

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