Environmental and ecological restoration projects are used widely as a means in which to reverse the degradation and damage done to an ecosystem by human activity. While the effects of these restoration programs have been widely evaluated at the ecosystem level, there has been little work done to investigate the social capacity of the communities these projects take place in, particularly in urban communities. This project investigates the community’s role in restoration, building upon a current ecological restoration maritime planting experiment in the Jamaica Bay region of New York City. Particularly, we are interested in the influence of individual identity, perceptions of restored areas, and environmental identity on community motivations to contribute to restoration projects and valuation of the environment. By understanding the relationship between community identity frames and ecological restoration, we can help practitioners better include community stakeholders while developing these types of restoration programs. We developed a 36-item questionnaire with scales of questions on environmental values, identity, views of community, views on restoration, and motivation to contribute to restoration projects. We surveyed 55 residents from two communities in Queens/Brooklyn that have current maritime restoration programs in progress during the summer of 2016.
From these data, we see the emergence of unique community or neighborhood identities that may influence individuals’ perceptions, support of, and desire to engage in ecological restoration programs. Interestingly, the reported desire to preserve local biodiversity was not correlated with engagement in current ecological restoration programs where as an intrinsic desire to help and improve the local community was. Additionally, there was no correlation between those individuals who self-reported as environmentalists or knowledgeable about the environment and their stewardship potential (i.e., willingness and ability to engage in environmental protection activities like restoration). This finding is contrary to how many scientists and practitioners often identify and partner with community members (i.e., singling out those who seem most environmentally friendly and knowledgeable). These results suggest a potential need to reframe how scientists and practitioners approach and discuss future restoration projects with community members to garner support for these types of programs. For the broader success of ecological restoration, it is important to deliberately consider the community that these restoration sites are nested in for greatest success of these programs.