The business perspective in ecological restoration: issues and challenges

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17 Scopus citations


Much of the practice of restoration is conducted by businesses—contractors, consultants, designers, engineers. Restoration businesses interact with a variety of stakeholders to complete projects on time and on budget, and to achieve ecological and business objectives. Our research explores the business perspective in restoration; it is based on data collected from businesses (contractors, consultants, design engineers), agencies, and nongovernmental organizations involved in a Superfund cleanup project in Montana, one of the largest river restoration efforts ever. Our findings highlight several areas restoration businesses must navigate. First, restoration businesses must juggle potentially competing goals, maintaining ecological integrity while achieving profitability objectives. Second, these businesses must manage the risk that arises from variability in the natural environment as well as individuals' risk tolerances. Third, they must navigate the disconnect between “science” and “practice,” including how to best monitor restoration projects. Fourth, they must make decisions about new techniques and innovations. Fifth, on-the-ground implementation must acknowledge that personnels' motives and expertise might conflict with original plans. We discuss these findings in relation to relevant scholarly research, offering implications for theory and practice. For example, the business of ecological restoration requires learning over time to be profitable while achieving the desired ecological and social outcomes; restoration businesses leverage monitoring in pursuit of adaptive management and engage “frontline personnel” as important voices in the restoration process. Understanding the business of restoration adds an important perspective in the complex dynamics of social-ecological systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)381-390
Number of pages10
JournalRestoration Ecology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2018


  • business of restoration
  • ecological restoration
  • restoration business
  • restoration economy
  • restoration practitioners


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