What Is Your Restoration Story?


Where are your restoration roots?

The profession of restoration ecology goes back only to 1988 with the formation of the Society for Ecological Restoration (SER) in Madison, Wisconsin.  But as a human endeavor that dates earlier, it has its roots in many fields, from traditional ecological knowledge, to conservation biology, forestry, sustainable resource management, and agriculture, among others.  Restorations of one sort or another have been attempted for many years, and the best of these have always been interdisciplinary.

The birth of the science and practice of restoration ecology (if not the term and profession, which came later) is generally dated to the earliest experiments in tallgrass prairie restoration begun in 1935 at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum, and the contemporaneous work in tropical systems undertaken by Ambrose Crawford and Albert Morris in separate projects in New South Wales, Australia.

Our book, “Introduction to Restoration Ecology (Howell, Harrington, and Glass, 2011, pp 8-11) traces these early systematic restoration efforts and includes a brief survey of the roots of restoration from Thoreau and Muir to the contributions of George Perkins Marsh and Jens Jensen, Edith Roberts and Else Rehmann, and outlines how their thinking and projects closely resemble current restorations.

Grassland Restoration Network tour of prairie restoration in McHenry County (IL) Conservation District.

Grassland Restoration Network tour of prairie restorations in the McHenry County (IL) Conservation District.

But, as Bill Jordan and George Lubick remind us, hominid activities that had restoration outcomes are quite old.  Early hominid use of fire ” to create, maintain–and so in a sense to restore–habitat suitable for themselves . . .”, came earlier,  “and predated the appearance of our species.”(William R. Jordan and George Lubick, “Making Nature Whole, A History of Ecological Restoration”, page 1 Island Press, 2011).

But, in addition to Jordan and Lubick’s discussion of what they call restoration’s “deep history” their book’s focus is really on the “invention” of restoration or the cluster of restoration ecology initiatives throughout the United States at about the same time as the Arboretum and Australian restoration work.

The Jordan and Lubick work is an interesting and essential book for restoration ecologists.  And the point to hold onto as we practice this forward-looking, multifaceted discipline, is that restoration is a human endeavor that has deep roots in the past.  Our current day work builds upon the legacy of those who pioneered restoration ecology.

People get involved in restoration for a variety of reasons. Here, we are interested in the specifics of why and how people get involved in restoration ecology. We know that restoration has become a great attractor for people to get involved at the local level where their actions can actually make things better.  Perhaps it is restoration’s easy accessibility that draws so many people to the work.  Maybe its popularity is due the feeling that just one person, or a small group, can make a difference, or the idea that people are a part of nature and not an outside intrusion.

What is your restoration story?  What are your restoration roots?

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About Steve Glass

The blogger is a restoration ecologist practicing and writing in the Midwestern United States.
This entry was posted in Ecological restoration, Restoration ecology, Restoration in Madison Wisconsin, Roots of restoration ecology and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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