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Conference Fever Isn't Enough

Editor's note: Our Executive Editor Barbara Dean is currently attending the Society for Ecological Restoration's Northwest/Great Basin Joint Regional Conference. We hope she and the other attendees catch a nice case of conference fever—and pick up some helpful tips for successful restoration!
Photo by Dale Marie, used under Creative Commons licensing. Photo by Dale Marie, used under Creative Commons licensing.

Over many years of attending conferences, especially during the early years of the Society for Ecological Restoration, I observed countless outbreaks of "conference fever," a phenomenon that the atmosphere of a well-done conference instills in its attendees. Some conference-goers react more than others, going on to actually do something or even make life-changing decisions. But once the conference is over and we go back to the routine of our lives, the fever ebbs, waiting to be reawakened at the next meeting. But the positive warmth of the bigger picture, healing the earth, lingers. This is the emotional side of ecological restoration—most of us have experienced it, many of us have embraced it, some of have refined it so that it doesn't fade away. Embracing this emotional feeling is important, but it is not all that is needed to get the job done. When working on to a project, it is critical to start the thinking process early—it is the thinking process that will ensure the restoration project performs. Planning the details in advance, start to finish, is mandatory to ensure that all elements of a project will be properly treated. Unfortunately I have seen a few projects where the emotional drive to "do something" overtook the thinking. One project in particular includes a massive effort at weed control with no end in sight. Had the restorationists paid attention in advance to how the site was going to be managed, I believe volunteer labor could have been used more effectively to advance the project rather than just keeping up with the weed problem. Ecological restoration work tests our ability to handle multiple factors and elements in an elaborately choreographed "dance" of people, biotic and abiotic material, and equipment. It does not just happen; it requires sustained effort and a well thought-out plan that has looked forward, beyond the last planting or the last weed removal to self-sustainability.