Nerdstuff: Social Factors Key to Landscape-Scale Coastal Restoration: Lessons Learned from Three U.S. Case Studies

Report on the importance of managing information for successful environmental restoration:

 There have been historically fewer reviews, however, that have addressed the suite of societally enabling conditions that existed in ecosystem-scale projects where coastal restoration efforts were sustained for longer periods. This may be in part because large-scale restoration efforts are relatively rare. However, it may also be because most of the initial focus of coastal ecosystem restoration research has been on understanding the ecological processes and outcomes of restoration, while there has been less focus on the social factors important to coastal restoration. Specifically, there has been little research examining what societal factors are important to maintain public and/or political support for large-scale restoration, even though this is a major potential barrier to ecosystem recovery.

Some very interesting stuff about managing the politics and PR around restoration projects. For example:

We found the following four critical themes for sustained large-scale restoration: First, where public support and demand for change does not yet exist, putting substantial resources into building public motivation may be an important first step, and could provide long-term benefits in garnering political support and help sustain community engagement. A number of mechanisms for building this public support could be used, including the use of social media, ad campaigns, etc. There is an important need for additional social science research, to better our understanding of what methods, mechanisms, and communication tools are most useful in garnering public and/or political support for ecological restoration, as well as to gain a better understanding of what degree of public/political support is needed to catalyze a movement toward ecological recovery. Second, while political support may not be a requirement for recovery, with it typically comes a level of resource investment to the recovery planning efforts and the motivation to set and achieve meaningful recovery goals. Furthermore, political support may translate to federal involvement, which can be useful when working across jurisdictional lines and brings considerable geographically diverse expertise and capacity to comprehensive recovery planning. Third, recovery plans need to be science-based with clear, measurable goals that resonate with the public. It is critical that the goals are based in science that considers realistic recovery end-points and ecological states, and there are a variety of tested approaches available for developing quantitative goals. Most importantly, the goals need to be communicable and transparent to the general public. Fourth, communication is critical for continued public support and enthusiasm. Therefore, the monitoring and accountability of progress toward reaching goals is essential, and the progress needs to be communicated to political leaders and the public frequently and in a comprehensible way.

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