The Society for Ecological Restoration Primer on Ecological Restoration (SERPER) states, “Ecological restoration is an intentional activity that initiates or accelerates the recovery of an ecosystem with respect to its health, integrity, and sustainability” and attempts to return an ecosystem to its historic condition. There are questions, however, about whether changing environmental conditions such as global climate change, invasive species (including pests and diseases), human-altered disturbance regimes, and widespread land-use changes will allow return to historic conditions, what constitutes naturalness, and whether restoration should incorporate continuing management. Active, intentional management (AIM) is a conservation approach that emphasizes a full range of active and passive management techniques to manage important ecological and hydrologic processes to conserve biodiversity; reconcile conflicts over management of natural resources; and provide various goods, ecological services, and recreational and spiritual opportunities to people over the long term. AIM includes intangibles such as knowing that rare species exist, that “wild” places are deliberately in place, and that ecological services important to the biosphere are maintained. How does AIM compare to restoration? Can AIM meet restoration goals? Specifically, can AIM reproduce the 10 traits of pristine ecosystems identified by SERPER? Measures can be used to evaluate success. For ecosystems, diversity of vascular plants, composition of functional groups of soil organisms, biotic integrity of vertebrate communities, and biocomplexity can be measured. For landscapes, simulations can project values: 1) capacity to support vertebrate diversity; 2) forest-floor function as measured by biotic integrity; 3) ecological productivity and ability to support medium-size predators as evidenced by biomass of mammalian frugivores; 4) ecological productivity and ability to sustain large predators, subsistence hunting by Native Americans, and sport hunting, as measured by production of corvids; 5) production of wood; 6) revenues; and 7) employment, which are measures of social, economic, and environmental sustainability. Would such forests seem natural? Perhaps what is needed are experiential comparisons of the abstract purity of pristine nature with contemplative experience of wildness in an intentionally managed mosaic … to immerse oneself in an AIM forest to experience aloneness as night falls, the moon rises, and the wolf howls.
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