In this Article, we focus on three elemental ingredients. The first is the emerging system property of resilience, a concept that describes a more complex model of change and restoration than typical resource management goals related to maximizing social uses and achieving optimum yields of resource outputs. Resilience is a characteristic of both social and ecological systems. Resilience theory suggests that complex systems can exist in fundamentally different regimes, and resilience is the property that mediates transitions among those regimes. Hence resilience must be overcome when undertaking objectives that involve regime changes, such as an ecological restoration or a social transformation. In fact, a comparative analysis of the Grand Canyon and Everglades projects reveals that resilience may not always be a good thing, particularly when it exhibits itself as entrenched stakeholder interests or institutions that do not embrace change.
A second significant factor in achieving restoration goals is legislation and other legal requirements, which can either enable or constrain ecosystem restoration. The Grand Canyon Protection Act of 1992 and the Everglades restoration provisions of the Water Resources Development Act of 2000 specifically authorize restoration. At the same time, existing, generally applicable legislation, such as the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act,6 remains in play and adds to the complexities of ecosystem restoration.
The third factor involves the administration of legislation through agencies' initiatives and public participation, particularly stakeholder involvement. Whether combative, collaborative, or somewhere in between, the participants' commitment to experimentation and adaptation in the implementation of a restoration plan has a profound influence on the speed and trajectory of restoration.
The remainder of this Article is structured as follows. Part II discusses the concept of resilience and how it underpins notions of restoration and sustainability. National legislative goals and requirements related to these concepts are then described. Next, Part III takes a close look at the physical characteristics and specific legislative directives for the Everglades and the Grand Canyon. Part IV sets forth several "lessons learned" from these two restoration projects. Finally, Part V concludes with broader observations about restoration and resilience. Success is not possible, and failure may be inevitable, unless the science of ecology, environmental law, and public administration are calibrated to foster experimentation, learning, and adaptation in management strategies.
Sandi Zellmer and Lance Gunderson,
Why Resilience May Not Always Be a Good Thing: Lessons in Ecosystem Restoration from Glen Canyon and the Everglades,
87 Neb. L. Rev.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/nlr/vol87/iss4/2