Taking Ecosystem Restoration to the Next Level
& Society for Ecological Restoration
|By Cheryl Ulrich, P.E., Ecosystem Restoration Program Manager, Weston Solutions, Inc.|
Ecosystem restoration has become a dominant activity for many natural resource management agencies throughout the United States and the world. Although it is now one of the fastest growing fields, large-scale ecosystem restoration is a significant challenge. A recent Northeast-Midwest Institute report identified four challenges for such large-scale projects:
NCER’s Historical Background
Thanks to the wisdom and perseverance of G. Ronnie Best, Ph.D. and United States Geological Survey Coordinator, Greater Everglades Priority Ecosystems Science, the first National Conference on Ecosystem Restoration took place in Orlando, Fla. in 2004. It became a biennial event in 2007 in Kansas City, Mo. and subsequently occurred in 2009 in Los Angeles, Calif. (http://conference.ifas.ufl.edu/ncer/). Increasing in size every year, the 2011 nationwide event in Baltimore, Md., brought together nearly 1,000 scientists, engineers, policy makers, planners and partners each of whom are actively involved in ecosystem restoration. This interdisciplinary conference presents state-of-the art science and engineering, planning and policy in a partnership environment. Both the National Research Council (NRC) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Environmental Advisory Board emphasize the need for leadership in the ecosystem restoration arena in order to achieve success. As such, attendees at past conferences have requested some form of collaboration to bridge the biennial events.
The concept of a National Community for Ecosystem Restoration (NCER) was initially launched at the 2009 National Conference for Ecosystem Restoration. At that event, two feedback forums were convened: a leadership summit and a closing plenary session. In addition, a questionnaire was distributed to conference attendees in order to obtain their input. The NCER concept was also presented at the November 2009 Annual American Water Resources Conference and the 2010 Greater Everglades Ecosystem Restoration Conference.
Along a parallel but uncoordinated path, America’s Great Waters Coalition (AGWC), a non-governmental organization, officially “launched” December 2009 at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center. According to AGWC, it is “an alliance of national, regional, state and local organizations working to protect, preserve and restore America’s Great Waters. The coalition is a result of years of work by national and local organizations to bring the broader restoration community together to ‘raise all boats.’” The organization works to secure needed long-term federal funding commitments and comprehensive policy for sound restoration of many of America’s large aquatic ecosystems. Upon coordination with AGWC, a draft conceptual model for NCER was created, which will complement and not duplicate this organization’s efforts:
NCER’s top two goals are as follows:
Mission: NCER will serve as a leading information transfer forum for large-scale ecosystem restoration programs as well as related programs across the United States. The organization will provide assistance to those implementing ecosystem restoration programs by bringing together diverse science, engineering and social science disciplines to foster knowledge exchange, policy development and partnerships.
SER’s Historical Background
The Society for Ecological Restoration (SER) is a non-profit international organization dedicated to advancing the field of ecological restoration. For the past 25 years, it has been promoting ecological restoration as a discipline that can provide practical solutions to many environmental challenges. SER’s vision, mission and guiding principles are as follows:
Vision: Ecological restoration is widely and effectively implemented to successfully re-establish and enhance biodiversity, ecosystem services and human well-being. SER fulfills its mission through its role as a leading global network that advances the science and practice of ecological restoration worldwide.
Mission: SER promotes ecological restoration as a means of sustaining the diversity of life on Earth and reestablishing an ecologically healthy relationship between nature and culture.
In addition to communicating leading-edge technologies and new scientific findings, SER promotes best restoration practices worldwide. The organization continues to increase its influence by establishing regional chapters, hosting biannual conferences and advising international organizations on policy and legislation. It also maintains online networks, including the Global Restoration Network (GRN) and Indigenous Peoples’ Restoration Network (IPRN). SER’s publications include: Restoration Ecology, a peer-reviewed journal; The Science and Practice of Ecological Restoration, an extensive book series published in collaboration with Island Press and affiliated journals Ecological Restoration and Ecological Management & Restoration.
Volunteers plant a salt marsh in Louisiana as part of the Edward Wisner Donation Marsh Restoration Project after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Should NCER & SER Join Forces?
In September 2010, NCER representatives were invited to meet with SER’s Board. The two entities agreed to prepare a white paper, for consideration by both memberships, detailing the pros and cons of the organizations’ joining. At the August 2011 National Conference on Ecosystem Restoration a plenary forum presented the proposed merger along with another option – incorporation as a standalone 501(c)(3) professional society. In addition, a keynote speaker from SER, Keith Bowers, FASLA, RLA, PWS (Biohabitats, Inc.), provided information on the organization, its mission and actions. Questionnaires were distributed to conference attendees and emails sent to attendees from all previous conferences. Of the questionnaires returned, 75 percent supported the continued exploration of an SER merger.
The proposed merger would:
The SER/NCER Proposal
The SER/NCER proposal includes the following:
Potential Advantages of Joining Forces
Merging NCER with SER would provide both groups with a unified, more powerful, more effective voice in advancing the practice of ecological/ecosystem restoration. The organizations share common goals and objectives and are supported by a diverse group of individuals representing a variety of disciplines. These groups share an interest in advancing the science and practice of ecosystem restoration throughout the U.S. and around the globe. The potential advantages of the merger include the following:
One main concern for the Lower Columbia River is fish passage blockage by dams and essential fish habitat conservation for key fisheries. The area also includes many communities susceptible to climate change effects, which are exacerbated by reduced shoreline resiliency resulting from shoreline hardening and estuary ecosystem degradation.
Potential Concerns of Joining Forces
During discussions regarding the merger, the potential for the following concerns surfaced. Specifically,
The Way Forward
It is time to decide the governance path to pursue for NCER, which consists of the following three options:
If you would like to join this very important initiative, please contact the author, Cheryl Ulrich, at email@example.com.Issue No. 19, 2012
NOAA will potentially be part of a collaborative interagency effort to promote a healthy, sustainable San Francisco Bay Delta ecosystem. This will provide California with a high-quality, reliable and sustainable long-term water supply and will restore the system’s environmental integrity and sustainability.
Cheryl Ulrich, P.E., is an ecosystem restoration program manager for Weston Solutions, Inc. She works as the company’s leader for the Southern Division’s Natural Resource Management Team and has been actively involved in the Gulf Coast restoration as a technical advisor. Ulrich can be reached by email at Cheryl.Ulrich@westonsolutions.com. Weston Solutions, Inc., founded in 1957, is a trusted provider of high-quality, value-driven environmental, sustainability, property redevelopment, energy and construction solutions. Dedicated to making a difference in the world, the company’s 1,800 people reach out from 60 offices around the globe to build strong stakeholder relationships and produce solutions that work. The company’s legacy of supporting its clients in time of need was exemplified most recently in tornado-ravaged Joplin, Mo., in flood-ravaged communities along the Missouri River and in its support of the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration following the Deepwater Horizon spill.
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