Examining Restoration Goals at a Former Military Site: Rocky Mountain Arsenal, Colorado

in Nature and Culture
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Identifying appropriate restoration goals has long posed a challenge in ecological restoration. The task becomes even more difficult in settings with diverse land use histories. After two decades of remediation, a former chemical weapons facility near Denver, Colorado, has become a national wildlife refuge. Restoration efforts have isolated contaminants and restored bison and native prairie, but the site's complex history invites a deeper consideration of reference conditions. This article presents data from a visitor survey and interviews with land managers and citizen groups to examine conceptions of historical fidelity at this site. Results indicate that visitors and land managers orient toward restoration that features a traditional reference condition. Citizen groups point to restoration of cultural features as the highest priorities. This research highlights disparities between constituencies and suggests that restoration work itself may shape values that inform visitors and affirm how a landscape ought to exist.