Climate change threatens the social, ecological, and economic benefits enjoyed by forest-dependent communities worldwide. Climate-adaptive forest management strategies such as genomics-based assisted migration (AM) may help protect many of these threatened benefits. However, such novel technological interventions in complex social–ecological systems will generate new risks, benefits, and uncertainties that interact with diverse forest values and preexisting risks. Using data from 16 focus groups in British Columbia, Canada, we show that different stakeholders (forestry professionals, environmental nongovernmental organizations, local government officials, and members of local business communities) emphasize different kinds of risks and uncertainties in judging the appropriateness of AM. We show the difficulty of climate-adaptive decisions in complex social–ecological systems in which both climate change and adaptation will have widespread and cascading impacts on diverse non climate values. Overarching judgments about AM as an adaptation strategy, which may appear simple when elicited in surveys or questionnaires, require that participants make complex trade-offs among multiple domains of uncertain and unknown risks. Overall, the highest-priority forest management objective for most stakeholders is the health and integrity of the forest ecosystem from which all other important forest values derive. The factor perceived as riskiest is our lack of knowledge of how forest ecosystems work, which hinders stakeholders in their assessment of AM’s acceptability. These results are further evidence of the inherent risk in privileging natural science above other forms of knowledge at the science-policy interface. When decisions are framed as technical, the normative and ethical considerations that define our fundamental goals are made invisible.