Prairie Restoration: An Interdisciplinary Approach
Invasions of nonnative species are a major problem for environments around the world, and interest in restoring the rare prairie ecosystem in Washington has been growing since the 1980s. The majority of the research in this field addresses the methods of restoration. To gain a better understanding of the process, I looked at how restoration of the native prairie remnant was being carried out at a national park in Washington and what major challenges were associated with it. I found through working with park staff and conducting interviews that, although there were significant challenges posed by eliminating nonnative species and preparing the land for seeding native plants, the major barrier to the restoration in this case was the public opposition to the project. In part, the former park superintendent had handled the conflict poorly, but I also discovered that much controversy surrounded this restoration project, especially for the public, regarding four main issues of debate: controlling the nonnative European rabbit, applying herbicides, whether the prairie should be restored at all, and what point it should be restored to. My findings point to the need for greater research regarding the social side of the issue, as it can present a significant obstacle to restoration’s success.