Building Local Community Commitment to Wetland Restoration

Davenport, MA; Bridges, CA; Mangun, JC; et al. Building Local Community Commitment to Wetlands Restoration: A Case Study of the Cache River Wetlands in Southern Illinois, USA ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT, 45 (4): 711-722 APR 2010

photo: Cache River and Cypress Creek Wetland. credit: US FWS

The paper begins by highlighting the average person's ignorance towards the importance of wetlands. In a number of studies, wetlands were only seen as important for their habitat value, and consistently ranked low on land use priority surveys. Ironically, these same studies showed that protecting water quality (one of the prime functions of wetlands) was of the utmost importance to Illinois residents. Furthermore, residents often judge the success of wetland restoration projects on their habitat, recreation, and aesthetic value; much differently than ecologists. [maybe these become the new reference sites??] Given this information, the authors argue that engaging local residents in wetland restoration projects is critical to their long term success.

The authors undertook a site specific social study to gauge resident's opinions about the ongoing Cache Creek wetland restoration project and found that resident's concerns were rarely taken into consideration during the restoration planning process. They also documented that many residents have strong, diverse relationships with the wetlands and are concerned about restoration outcomes.

The paper concludes by arguing for greater community involvement in restoration projects. They highlight four areas of special concern that either currently cause local opposition to restoration projects or that have the potential to improve citizen opinion of restoration projects. This is a good paper to read, especially for those of us involved in on-the-ground restoration efforts. Local participation and input should not be underestimated, as it has the potential to ensure the long-term success of restoration projects.

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