- Vital Signs
As editor of a journal dedicated to the practice and science of ecological restoration, I regularly troll favored sources of information, searching through a broad swath of current media for pertinent discussions. I always find articles of interest in the ecology and natural resources management literatures, of course, but equally important are mainstream media outlets such as the New York Times and the BBC. This past March, the Times carried a multipage article on the recent developments in the long-suffering Everglades restoration effort, noting that the state's South Florida Water Management District over-seeing the restoration (and apparently paying private land-owners way too much for some well-used land) will "end up with six large disconnected parcels under the current deal, including all of United States Sugar's citrus groves. State officials acknowledged that some of that land, which has been ravaged by canker, a plant disease, is useless for restoration" (Van Natta and Cave 2010).
The Everglades restoration effort is not the story a restorationist turns to when seeking to be heartened, but it is certainly an illustrative story of how far we have to go in terms of developing a trustworthy, effective, and timely process for public agencies and private landowners to collaborate in the name of ecological restoration. This conversation would not be happening if it were not for laws such as the Clean Water Act that push the state of Florida to move to protect the Everglades. But the law appears to be akin to firing a gun in the air, inciting everyone to take off in different directions, but not doing much to insure that people cooperate, coordinate, and move together toward a common, hopeful destination. (For an excellent presentation of the story of Everglades degradation and restoration see Michael Grunwald's The Swamp: The Everglades, Florida, and the Politics of Paradise.)
The weekly e-bulletin RESTORE from the Society for Ecological Restoration International is another great source of coverage of ecological restoration from mainstream and scientific sources. I also regularly scan newsletters from key nonprofits; the Environmental Law Institute's National Wetlands Newsletter is an excellent place to read about the implications of different environmental policies, as is the "Legal Planet" blog on environmental policy from the Berkeley and UCLA law schools. Government agency publications such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Endangered Species Bulletin and the U.S. Park Service's Park Science are very useful. I sometimes scan the table of contents from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences as well as a number of environment-related listservers. I also treasure the small stream of newsletters sent to us from grassroots organizations describing recent projects, outstanding volunteers, and future plans.
By listening in on the talk emerging from these sources—some anticipated and some unexpected—I am seeking to read the vital signs of ecological restoration: how strong is the beat at the center points? How well do the capillaries carry a flow of discussion further afield? All this information can create a bit of a din, but our goal for this journal is to reflect some of the breadth of this important, emerging conversation. Yes, much of the time people talk past each other in more of a pontification than a conversation, but in the bigger picture I see emerging from the hubbub a negotiation. We are working to establish what should ecological restoration be doing and where? Who is doing it and how?
Speaking of doers, I was saddened to read about the passing of Professor A. Carl Leopold, the William H. Crocker Scientist Emeritus at the Boyce Thompson Institute on Cornell's Ithaca campus, who died last November. Carl contributed to Ecological Restoration most recently in the spring of 2008, reporting on his long-term efforts to restore tropical rainforest in Costa Rica (see ER 26(1):22–26). Carl Leopold was a pleasure for this editor to work with, and I am honored that this publication helped publicize his contributions to ecological restoration.
In 1992, with the assistance of colleagues, he founded the Tropical Forestry Initiative (TFI), a demonstration project for restoration of tropical forests in...