Great background on the history of environmental restoration from Aeon.
The practice was first championed as a cutting-edge conservation strategy by professional groups such as the Society for Ecological Restoration, established in 1988. Undeniably, there was controversy in the decade or so after. To what, exactly, should systems be restored or, more accurately, to when should they be restored: perhaps the target might be the conditions prior to European settlement in the United States, or, at an extreme, might we rewild to the conditions prevailing in the late Pleistocene? Some philosophers fretted over the ontological status of these newly managed systems – are they ‘faked nature’? Some Chicago writers complained that restorationists were ‘carving up the woods’. Some policy scholars worried that seeing nature as repairable could justify harsher use of the environment: why be concerned about resource extraction if all the parts sundered in the process could be adroitly returned to their place? Nonetheless, by the 1990s, restoration practices had gained widespread support among academic ecologists and landscape managers.