Negative off-site impacts of ecological restoration: understanding and addressing the conflict

Buckley, M. C.; Crone, E. E. 2008. Conservation Biology 22(5):1118-1124

Buckley and Crone argue that restoration projects can create negative externalities to surrounding lands that may cause neighboring land owners to try to block the restoration efforts. For example, a large-scale restoration effort supported by both private and government agencies on the Sacramento River was stalled because neighboring farmers perceived that the restoration project was introducing weeds and pests (insects, squirrels and deer) to their lands. Consequently the extent of the restoration project was curtailed from 86,000 ha to 32,000 ha.

Buckley and Crone describe this situation as analogous to a factory being accountable for negative externalities caused by pollution emission. Laws curtailing actions with negative externalities typically are designed to protect human health, however, and the examples they offer of negative externalities caused by restoration are all related to economic performance. Consequently I think they over-emphasized the legal argument – it seems to me that restoration on private property that affects the economic status of neighbors falls into the same sphere as property taxes increasing in a neighborhood when one of the residents builds a mansion. Given that the Sacramento river restoration project was led in part by local government, I think the paper should have focused more on understanding how local governments could work to ensure continued restoration outcomes while responding to local concerns.

Sacramento River Credit: NOAA Restoration Center & Damage Assessment and Restoration Program

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