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Stuart Allison

Knox College
What do we mean when we talk about ecological restoration? An inquiry into values
What do we mean to be doing when we talk about, plan, and carry out ecological restorations? Restoration ecologists usually reply that our goal in restoration is to return an ecosystem to some previously existing condition that no longer is present at that site. We almost always make the assumption that the site?s current condition is somehow degraded or less desirable than the previous condition and thus we need to improve the degraded condition of the site. Yet that assumption and our usual goal in restoration beg the question of what we mean by degraded, desirable and improvement. Furthermore, how do we decide when an ecosystem is so degraded or damaged that it is in need of restoration? What sort of values are we bringing to the process when we talk about restoration? What are we really doing when we restore an ecosystem? In this talk, I will concentrate on how we decide the final state that is the goal of our restoration efforts and what it means when we describe restorations using terms like natural and artificial. I will argue that by using terms like natural and artificial we are setting up a false dichotomy that separates us from the act of restoration and from a very important part of restoration ? restoring the human relationship to the rest of the biota. Ideally restoration is an activity that can be engaged by almost all people working at small to large scales. We should do all we can to bridge that gulf and make restoration as appealing as possible to potential restorationists.
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