SYMP 12-7: Restoration of what and for whom? Understanding the subtleties of societal outcomes
Mark W. Brunson, Utah State University
Ecological restoration enjoys a positive image both as a research topic and an ecosystem management objective. Yet the warm feelings that people hold toward restoration in general may not help us predict societal reactions to specific restoration outcomes. In some cases, the ecologically desirable target may not match citizens’ expectations about a “restored” landscape – especially if the target condition would eliminate locally valued plant species or communities. Sometimes the methods employed will not match what society views as restoration, as in cases where woody species have invaded grassland or shrub-steppe ecosystems so that management goals call for their removal. While citizens know that desertification is a form of ecosystem degradation, the process occurs slowly enough that the degraded condition may be preferable to citizens unused to the prior condition. Support for activities billed as “restoration” also can depend more on how society feels about the organization in charge of restoration than on how it views the desired outcomes. And since society itself is a complex entity, outcome preferences are not shared by all its members. This presentation reviews evidence from the central and western United States, and offers a proposed framework for understanding the influences on attitudes toward restoration among relevant segments of society.