Uncertainty is a dominant feature of decision making in forestry and wildlife management. Aggravating this challenge is the irreversibility of some decisions, resulting in the loss of economic opportunities or the extirpation of wildlife populations. We adapted the real options approach from economic theory to develop a methodology to evaluate a resource management decision to stop timber harvesting when a woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) population becomes threatened with extinction. In our study area of central Labrador, Canada, both caribou and timber harvesting are valued ecosystem services. By using a decision rule, which incorporates future developments, the real options approach provides a technique to incorporate ecological and social uncertainty into forest-management decision making. As a result, it reduces the risk of a forest manager making a decision with unwanted irreversible consequences or failing to make a decision that could avoid such unwanted consequences. © 2008 by the authors. Published here under license by the Resilience Alliance.