Not long ago I participated in a delightful and in somenways unusual nature outing at a place called PoplarnCreek, one of the forest preserves that make up an extensivensystem of green spaces in Chicago and its suburbs.nFor three or four hours some fifty of us cut and pilednbrush, planted seeds, and used bowsaws and hammers tongirdle hundreds of adolescent Siberian elms that wereninvading the site, threatening to make it unfit for prairienplants. By the time we left we had accomplished somethingnthe environmentalism of the past generation would havenfound virtually unimaginable. We had visited a naturalnlandscape. We had intimately affected its ecology — had in anliteral sense become members of the community. And wenhad left the place not worse off but better — that is, more thenway it was before European settlement, more “natural” —nthan we had found it.nOur littie outing at Poplar Creek (actually the openingnsession of the second annual conference of the Society fornEcological Restoration) was an instance of a new kind ofnactivity, commonly called ecological or environmental restoration,nthat has become increasingly conspicuous innenvironmental circles during the past few years, and that hasnbeen the subject of considerable discussion, and evennWilliam R. Jordan III is publications and public outreachnmanager at the University of Wisconsin-MadisonnArboretum and a founding membernand member of the board of the Society fornEcological Restoration.nThe Reentry of NaturenEcological Restorationnby William R. Jordan IIIndebate, among environmentalists.nEnvironmentalism has by and large been skeptical of thennotion of ecological restoration as anything more than annemergency or palliative measure. Environmentalists havenbeen concerned that restoration — or the promise of restoration—nmight be used to undermine arguments for thenpreservation of existing natural areas. They have questionednthe quality of the results, or the feasibility of carrying outnhigh-quality restoration work on an environmentally significantnscale. Behind and beneath all this is the fact thatnenvironmentalism has generally tended to see nature asnessentially separate from human beings, a conception thatnprecludes the possibility of restoration in the strictest sense.nFrom this point of view the idea of an “artificial naturalnecosystem” is nonsense.nI share at least some of these concerns. It is clear, fornexample, that the promise of restoration can be used toncircumvent arguments for preservation. And it is often truenthat restored ecosystems do not closely resemble theirnnatural counterparts, or that it may take a very long time fornthem to do so. Nonetheless, I am convinced that restorationnhas a critical role to play in the conservation of naturalnareas — not merely because it offers a technology fornbringing natural ecosystems back, but because it providesnsomething even more important: the key to the essentialnproblem of establishing a healthy relationship betweennourselves and the rest of nature.nI believe that restoration offers a paradigm for a new kindnof environmentalism, one concerned with relationships —nnnAUGUST 1990/19n