Restore to What?
In a recent comment Mark said:
Now, let me address “restoration” briefly: Restore to what? April 11, 1767 at 2:33 am? The whole premise is based on this kind of faulty assumption. And then, if an area has been so disturbed that it needs “restoration” then likely, as is the case in this part of the country, actual physical aspects of the environment that were there back at the arbitrary time that you are choosing to “restore” to are missing.
It might be useful to let look at what the Forest Service says on the subject here, including:
How is ecological restoration defined?
Ecological Restoration is the process of assisting the recovery of resilience and adaptive capacity of ecosystems that have been degraded, damaged, or destroyed. Restoration focuses on establishing the composition, structure, pattern, and ecological processes necessary to make terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems sustainable, resilient, and healthy under current and future conditions.
Why is the Forest Service developing FSM 2020 – Ecological Restoration and Resilience?
The need for ecological restoration is widely recognized, and the Forest Service has conducted restoration-related activities across many programs for decades. However, an internal agency study identified that the concept of ecological restoration has not been well understood nor consistently implemented within the Forest Service.
The Forest Service lacks a foundational, comprehensive policy and definitions to more effectively utilize ecological restoration as a tool for achieving land management objectives on national forests and grasslands.
This directive is needed to provide an overarching and unifying policy and definition of restoration for Forest Service employees and partners to more effectively communicate restoration needs at the local, regional, and national levels—all resource management programs have a responsibility for ecological restoration.
This directive will enable the Forest Service to more effectively address 21st century environmental issues such as climate change, water quality, and increasing threats from wildfires, insects, disease, and invasive species.
What is the goal of ecological restoration?
The goal of ecological restoration is to reestablish and retain the resilience of National Forest System lands and associated resources to achieve sustainable management and provide a broad range of ecosystem services. Healthy and resilient landscapes will have greater capacity to survive natural disturbances and large scale threats to sustainability, especially under changing and uncertain future environmental conditions, such as those driven by climate change and increasing human uses.
The policy makes it clear the Forest Service restoration is aimed not at going back to any point in time, but on restoring resiliency and sustainability. It took a long time to get this policy in place because many folks in the agency feared that the policy would be interpreted as a mandate to return to some point in the past, which a Mark pointed out is not possible. I interpret the policy to mean that where ecosystem conditions can best be restored by doing nothing, then do nothing. Where intervention is needed, then do something. That may mean removing a culvert, killing invasive plants or actively bring fire back to the system. The past loss of fire in southern pine ecosystems is primary reason that most rare species in the South are in trouble– they are adapted to systems with a frequent disturbance regime. Unless we area wiling to accept the loss of many of these species (e.g. the red-cockaded woodpecker), active restoration actions are essential.