The Role of Naturalness in Ecological Restoration

A Case Study from the Cook County Forest Preserves

in Nature and Culture
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  • 1 University of Illinois nevans3@illinois.edu
  • 2 University of Illinois wstewart@illinois.edu
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Abstract

While ecological restoration may help bridge the nature-culture gap, restoration still holds relevant meanings for naturalness, as demonstrated in this case study of staff and volunteers in the Cook County Forest Preserves (CCFP) in Illinois, United States. Translating naturalness as an agency policy into restoration goals for sites, CCFP integrated historical evidence, ecological science, and human values. Naturalness was constructed as historical fidelity, a scientific designation to be objectively discovered, while the scales at which people interpreted historical fidelity, namely, species, communities, processes, and practices, were sites of value deliberation. The multiple renderings of naturalness can be a strength that provides flexibility to restore what is locally valued, constructing restoration projects that acknowledge, rather than attempt to overcome, the constructed nature of naturalness.

Contributor Notes

Nicole M. Evans is a PhD student in Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois and a human dimensions specialist at the Illinois Natural History Survey, where she advises on human well-being in landscape conservation design. Nicole conducts research on collaborative conservation and the politics of knowledge in ecological restoration. She presented this article for the Northeastern Recreation Research Symposium, Center for National Resource Economics and Policy, and the Midwest Society for Ecological Restoration conference. She was also an invited speaker to the 2017 Society for Ecological Restoration World Conference on a panel about the language of ecological restoration. Address: 219 Huff Hall, University of Illinois, Champaign, IL 61820. Phone: 630-201-1863. E-mail: nevans3@illinois.edu

William P. Stewart is Professor of Recreation, Sport, and Tourism at the University of Illinois. He conducts research on park development to enhance sense of place. His research works to democratize knowledge and integrate communities into land use decision making. His current grants center on the benefits of Chicago’s Large Lot Program, and rural community resiliency surrounding protected grasslands. In 2013, Springer-Verlag published his coedited volume, Place-Based Conservation: Perspectives from the Social Sciences. Address: 219 Huff Hall, University of Illinois, Champaign, IL 61820. Phone: 217-244-4532. E-mail: wstewart@illinois.edu

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