The Ethics of Restoration

Several years ago while we were working on a wetland restoration project, we were instructed by our client to minimize costs by reducing the number of groundwater monitoring wells that we determined were needed to adequately assess wetland hydrology, reduce the size and quantity of plant material that we believed was needed to establish the appropriate vegetation community, and to eliminate post installation invasive species management, recognizing that this would surely compromise the long term success of the project. On another occasions, we have be requested to remove stakeholder participation from restoration projects, asked to be an expert witness to justify land development projects that our restoration work has been associated with, and to convince regulatory agencies that restoration sites should be approved contrary to what the monitoring data suggests. And I can’t count the number of times we have seen our restoration construction details used on other consultant’s drawings without our permission (or even a reference).

As a member of a number of professional societies as well as being licensed to practice landscape architecture in the United States, I am bound to about a half-dozen code of ethics that serve to define acceptable behaviors, promote high standards of practice, and establish a framework for professional responsibility within the various disciplines that I practice. However, to the best of my knowledge, the specific work that I practice as a restoration ecologist, or an ecological restorationist, is not covered by a code of ethics for ecological restoration. In the latest issue of Ecological Restoration (Vol. 24, No. 2), Dr. Rebecca Vidra and her undergraduate students at Duke University report on an online survey of roughly 1,000 SER International members on their views regarding a code of ethics for ecological restoration.

According to Dr. Vidra, more than half of the respondents have faced ethical issues with regard to ecological restoration and that, “something should be done to help practitioners successfully meet these challenges”. The survey went on to ask SER International members if a code of ethics should be developed for restoration ecologists, and if so, what should the code address. According to the survey, an overwhelming majority of SER International members believe that a code is needed and would be willing to sign a pledge to uphold it has a member.
Dr. Vidra and her students have presented a compelling case for SER to develop a code of ethics. With the advent of a possible practitioner certification program for ecological restorationists, it appears to be time to fully explore a code of ethics for SER International. I believe a code of ethics for SER International is long overdue. I also believe that the process to undertake this effort needs to be inclusive, transparent and purposeful; otherwise the code of ethics will loose its creditability.

Further Reading

On The Construction Side Of Restoration Ecology With Matt Koozer
Biohabitats Founder & President, Keith Bowers on Real Leaders Podcast
Get to know Amy Schulz, Biohabitats Extern
My Experience as a Biohabitats Intern
Get to know Senior Restoration Ecologist, Rachel Spadafore

More From This Author

There Is No Sustainability Without Ecology
Keith Bowers WVU Commencement Speech
The Role of B Corporations In Conservation and Communities: Keith Bowers on the Rewilding Earth podcast
COP10: Intervening on behalf of biodiversity
Let’s end the use of peat moss in ecological restoration and green infrastructure projects