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Restoration as a Conservation Tool

Ecological Restoration
Vol. 23 Number 1
http://ecologicalrestoration.info/

Restoration as a Conservation Tool

As I write this column the tragic loss of life in the wake of the tidal wave that hit eleven countries across Asia and Africa are unfolding. This is especially relevant given that a delegation from SER International just returned from the 3rd World Conservation Congress in Bangkok, Thailand. SER International joins the world in mourning the loss of life and everyone that has been affected by one of the most devastating natural disasters in recent memory.

In November George Gann and David Lamb, co-chairs of the IUCN Commission on Ecosystem Management (CEM) – SER International joint committee, along with myself, joined over 4,900 people from all across the globe to attend the Congress. And what an event it was. We joined 1,000 of the world’s leading scientists, over 200 business representatives, more than 40 Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Environment, Agriculture, Tourism and Fisheries, as well as hundreds of environmental activists, community and religious leaders.

SER International strengthened its ties to the IUCN – World Conservation Union and the global conservation community through several venues during the 10 day congress. Ecological restoration has been identified as one of the key areas of concentration for the CEM and the importance of its partnership with SER was highlighted throughout the meeting.

The World Conservation Congress included 2 days of CEM meetings in advance of the 3-day World Conservation Forum, and 5 days of the official IUCN member’s business assembly. George Gann tirelessly attended the entire event and officially represented SER International during the CEM meeting and the ICUN member’s business assembly.

In preparation for the Congress, David and George completed the first official version of a global rationale on ecological restoration, titled Ecological restoration: a means of conserving biodiversity and sustaining livelihoods. This document culminates work first initiated in preparation for the second SER-CEM workshop on ecological restoration held in Taman Negara, Malaysia in 2003. CEM printed 5,000 copies of this eight page document for distribution at the Congress. Additionally, SER International had the SER International primer on ecological restoration professionally published, which we also distributed at the meeting. Visit http://www.ser.org/ to download a copy of each of these documents.

During the forum, SER International led 4 presentations on ecological restoration and its role in conservation. George, David and I ran a highly successful workshop on ecological restoration illustrating more then a dozen case studies from around the world. We also ran three other events – a roundtable discussion on the role of ecological restoration in conservation, a roundtable on the restoration of watersheds, and we presented a conservation platform on the SER Primer. Although the Forum was highly competitive, our delegation was able to successfully reach out to a whole new constituency.

The final event was the meeting of the IUCN members. As head of delegation, George Gann attended this five day meeting representing SER, which has been a member of IUCN since 1996. The members meeting included several important elements: the election of officers, regional councilors, and commission chairs; the approval of the IUCN program for 2005-2008; and the approval of Congress resolutions and recommendations. For the first time, SER was able to exercise its voting rights at a World Conservation Congress.

Several issues from the business assembly are of particular note to SER International members. First, the need for ecological restoration, which was incorporated into the IUCN’s long term goals at the second World Conservation Congress in Amman, Jordan in 2000, was retained. In the 2005-2008 program, SER’s official definition of ecological restoration has been included in the glossary, thus becoming official doctrine of IUCN. The commission responsible for restoration in the IUCN program is the CEM, with whom SER has a formal working relationship. The 2005-2008 mandate for the CEM specifically mentions working with SER and other partners to “develop affordable, socially acceptable and scientifically sound restoration methods that can be applied at various levels in both developed and developing countries.”

SER International is also proud to announce that former SER Chair Nik Lopoukhine (1995-1997), who was instrumental in developing the formal relationship between SER and IUCN, was elected as chair of the World Commission on Protected Areas. This places Nik on the governing council of IUCN and the restoration agenda is sure to benefit.

While the event was very successful for both SER International and ecological restoration, it also brought to light that ecological restoration is still met with a great deal of skepticism in the global conservation community. I believe we can overcome this skepticism and demonstrate to the world that ecological restoration has a legitimate, in fact essential place in the conservation of natural resources.

Keith Bowers, Chair
Society for Ecological Restoration International
http://www.ser.org/

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