Project Planning and Management for Ecological Restoration

Project Planning and Management for Ecological Restoration


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Concern over climate change and the ongoing challenges of managing degraded ecosystems have made the field of ecological restoration a growing focus in the agendas of national and international conservation organizations, including the United Nations. The problems facing us are both complex and urgent, and effective solutions are needed.

Project Planning and Management for Ecological Restoration presents principles of sound planning and management that will greatly increase the likelihood that completed projects will meet stakeholder expectations. John Rieger, John Stanley, and Ray Traynor have been involved in restoration activities for over thirty years and were part of the small group of restorationists who recognized the need for a professional organization and in 1987 founded the Society for Ecological Restoration. This book comes out of their experiences practicing restoration, conducting research, and developing and refining new techniques and methods.

In the book, the authors describe a process for planning and managing an ecological restoration project using a simple, four-faceted approach: planning, design, implementation, and aftercare. Throughout, the authors show how to incorporate principles of landscape ecology, hydrology, soil science, wildlife biology, genetics, and other scientific disciplines into project design and implementation. Illustrations, checklists, and tables are included to help practitioners recognize and avoid potential problems that may arise.

Project Planning and Management for Ecological Restoration provides a straightforward framework for developing and carrying out an ecological restoration project that has the highest potential for success. Professional and volunteer practitioners, land managers, and property owners can apply these guidelines to the wide variety of conditions and locations where restoration is needed. Long overdue, this book will inform and advance the effective practice of this rapidly expanding field.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781610913638
Publisher: Island Press
Publication date: 08/21/2014
Series: Science and Practice of Ecological Restoration Series
Pages: 320
Product dimensions: 10.10(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

John Rieger is a practicing restoration ecologist, and cofounder and first president of the Society for Ecological Restoration. John Stanley is a practicing restoration ecologist consultant and cofounder of the Society for Ecological Restoration. Ray Traynor is a member of the executive team of the San Diego Association of Governments and registered landscape architect in the state of California.

Read an Excerpt

Project Planning and Management for Ecological Restoration

By John Rieger, John Stanley, Ray Traynor


Copyright © 2014 John Rieger, John Stanley, and Ray Traynor
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-61091-363-8


Framework for Ecological Restoration

The size range and complexity of ecological restoration are broad. The uniqueness of each project site makes it challenging to follow a recipe-book approach. We have found that following a four-phase framework provides a structured approach to an ecological restoration project that will greatly help you advance your project with a minimum of wasted time and resources.

Four-Phase Framework

The four sequential phases of project development are (1) planning, (2) design, (3) implementation, and (4) aftercare. This framework applies to restoration projects regardless of size, ecosystem, or location. The framework approach emphasizes that the restoration practitioner begins with the end target in mind. It is structured to provide a more disciplined approach to the planning and design process, whereby objectives drive the action steps of the entire development process. Each step of project development can be divided into a series of "aspects" of the project. Starting with project management techniques and advancing through to aftercare, the focus is always on results. The process of project development may involve a few to several steps, depending on the complexity of the project. Each step should be carefully evaluated and, when appropriate, should incorporate lessons learned from previous experience. Attention at this point in plan development will help to avoid repeating failures, and will increase focus on achieving results, before moving on to the next step.

We encourage using the lists, tables, and figures as a starting point for organizing thoughts, data, plans, and actions as the project progresses through the four phases of its development. Use the flowcharts, tables, and checklists to begin the process of developing a sound and thorough ecological restoration plan. The flowcharts will help you understand the relationships among the many steps in conducting an ecological restoration project. The checklists and tables will help determine the specific information required at each step in the planning process so that requirements and other project commitments can be properly identified in advance to permit the smooth implementation of the project. The Plan Review Checklist (appendix 8) in the implementation phase is the result of numerous projects over many years as well as input from several individuals.

Project Planning

The foundations of a project are established in the planning phase, which will greatly facilitate project development through completion. The process of coordinating with the stakeholders and obtaining a consensus among project sponsors is critical to the project development process. Building this foundation is crucial for the successful operation of the project. Whether it is practiced consciously or unconsciously, project management is the foundation of all successfully implemented projects.

We encourage developing a well-crafted mission, goals, and objectives for your project (chapter 3). Enumerating and clarifying the project goals has several advantages. They can be recorded and remembered for use in future projects. They can be communicated to team members, sponsors, stakeholders, key decision makers, and regulatory agencies and argued in these settings as appropriate.

Goals and objectives will form the basis of many decisions, starting with design strategies, design approach, plant materials, and installation schedule. The process of developing goals and objectives will require thoughtful evaluation and coordination among the stakeholders. Consensus among project sponsors is critical in the project development process. All permitting or other regulatory agencies should actively participate in this important initial step of the process. Agency-permitted projects often add additional constraints to a project with specific conditions that need to be considered as early as possible because they will directly affect the process of identifying and quantifying the evaluation criteria used to judge the performance of the restoration effort. In addition, the conditions may add features not previously considered and could impact the budget and materials required.

Initially, goals and objectives can be identified in a small group, with participants who are more knowledgeable about the project site or the circumstances. This is the time to explore the maximum opportunities, to test the "what-ifs." Brainstorming ideas will set the initial foundation for the considered discussion that will follow. To help the initial brainstorming, it is important to conduct an initial site analysis. Results of a site analysis provide the basis for action steps. Some actions will be short term, and the results will be immediately noticeable. However, a thorough approach to restoration also focuses on the actions that have long-term implications. Once the approach has been initially laid out for the stakeholders and project sponsors, it will now be possible to conduct a more thorough site analysis and a SWOT-C analysis (a process of evaluating various factors identified during site analysis; see chapter 4), which will allow the final goals and objectives to be developed. Once agreed upon, the goals and objectives are then finalized and will establish the project requirements from which project plans and actions can be created. This systematic framework approach encourages the restoration practitioner to examine all of the factors that are at work on the project site that can influence the outcome of the restoration effort. The site analysis process introduced in chapter 4 requires a thorough, analytical approach to understanding the forces at work on the project site.

Not all plans go as expected, and many designers are now applying the risk management process to restoration projects (chapter 2; appendix 3). A risk assessment outlines what could go wrong on your project. The resulting risk avoidance plan is the key element of the risk management process. This technique helps the project development team reduce the impact of issues that threaten the successful implementation of the project. The aim of risk management is to develop backup plans early in the project development process so that when something goes wrong, the team has actions that can be immediately implemented to minimize impacts to the project scope, schedule, and cost.

Project Design

Design, the second phase, is where one will encounter numerous choices. The path chosen will be determined largely by the decisions made during the project planning phase. There may be only a few design options to meet project needs on small sites with a single plant community; however, on larger projects with more than one plant community, both management and construction strategies may be needed. If the focus is on a target species—a species of specific interest to stakeholders—combinations of strategies to create the specific habitat elements for the target species may be needed. Various stages in the design phase will involve situations that require solid judgment—for example, the complexity and the variability of a site may not permit a precise distribution of plants by either sowing or planting. Chapter 6 provides general guidance principles and suggests ways to address specific situations. However, these situations usually require a good knowledge of the species behavior or ecology.

The development of goals and objectives will in turn guide your approach to the restoration. The four variations presented in chapter 5 will guide the decisions needed to develop a cohesive plan. The initial concept plan will address the management strategies, if any, and construction elements may be limited depending on the size or complexity of the project site. From concept to the actual design, an iterative process of examining the site with its goals and objectives will force modifications as one gets further into the design decisions and the specifics required to execute the project. We have commonly found that changes will still be necessary because stakeholders, especially regulatory agencies, will have additional observations. Negotiations and project management skills will be required to resolve issues and come to final consensus on the design. On more than one project, we have had to make some changes we felt were unwarranted, but we could not resolve the issues satisfactorily. Ideally, any changes will not affect the overall structure of your design. Because you will have been communicating with all your project sponsors and stakeholders, this disaster should not happen.

Following these modifications, the next phase of the process is to develop more formal project plans with specifications. If the project is primarily a management-oriented process, then having protocols developed and agreed to by your stakeholders will permit the operations to proceed. Invariably, there will be some construction elements associated with management-based projects. An example of an exception would be the use of prescribed fire to achieve a management objective. Any construction element should be clearly planned and described to ensure an efficient implementation phase.

Project Implementation

The implementation phase encompasses the full range of projects, including those lacking complexity to extremely complex projects requiring several additional elements typically found in major engineered construction projects. It will be up to you to decide which steps to include in the project plans and specifications to ensure the project is described in the way most likely to attain the anticipated results (chapter 9).

Depending on the project's size and complexity, you may require only some simple line drawings and tables to keep the project under control. You will have to decide on the level of detail required for your project. Management-based activities require a dramatically different set of parameters and instructions than do construction and installation activities. Written instructions are the basis for informing people on what, how, and when to conduct a specific activity; the "where" typically requires mapping or some other form of designation that has been established on-site, such as permanent markers.

On any one project there can be a wide range of construction and installation activities with an equally diverse means of execution. These conditions require not only mapping, diagrams, and plans but also specifications to ensure that the desired product can be executed with a minimum of damage to the remainder of the site. Clear instruction is crucial. However, even with numerous reviewers, misinterpretation is possible. An on-site, or at least on-call, person capable of answering questions or directing the work should be associated with the project. This person is a critical element in ensuring the results you desire. On-site inspection also ensures that products and the condition of materials are acceptable. Poor material or unacceptable plants and seed will seriously affect the performance of the project. Routinely, a maintenance period from ninety days to two years follows the construction and installation of plant material. The time period for plant establishment is concerned with survivorship of plants, irrigation (if required), and weeding to prevent competition during this vulnerable stage. Typically, the end of the plant establishment period is the completion of a project, which can now be closed out and passed along to the stewards or owners of the property for long-term management as part of a stewardship program.

Project Aftercare

In addition to routine maintenance activities and depending on the regulatory or sponsor directions, stewardship programs may be needed for projects beyond the time period it takes to meet the stakeholders' success criteria. In some instances, this may be because the plants have not reached self-sufficiency in the short time following installation. An ecosystem comprises many different elements, with some requiring many years, even decades, to fully develop. Some ecological restoration projects may be subjected to stressors that require attentive care until the ecosystem becomes strong enough to resist stressors.

The purpose of aftercare is to continue the restoration efforts begun during the project implementation phase and to help attain the desired trajectory of maturation. The type of ecosystem involved will determine the activity or management. Projects implemented under an agency permit or other regulatory requirement often require monitoring for three to five years, whereas some large or otherwise significant projects can have monitoring requirements that last more than ten years.

The maintenance and monitoring of a site is often a forgotten aspect of land management, and if not forgotten, it is frequently poorly resourced with insufficient staff hours and insufficient funds. External influences that go unabated can quickly deteriorate the condition of the restored area. Most projects require some form of nurturing activities following implementation to facilitate the development of the site and to ensure that stressors are minimized during the early stages. So, whether your aftercare activities include regular weed abatement or maintenance of barriers, such as fences or dikes, some form of postimplementation follow-up treatment is typically necessary to ensure that the reintroduced processes can continue to advance instead of being left in a state of neglect and decline.

Monitoring will document the progress of the site. Regardless of whether or not your project has permit or sponsor requirements, an important aspect of aftercare is site monitoring and documentation. We encourage all restoration practitioners to collect data and write progress reports to capture what is and is not working on the site. Our field is young, and the body of knowledge grows each year. We all can learn from even the simplest, most straightforward project. Communication among practitioners strongly helps to advance restoration practice.

We have introduced you to the four phases of an ecological restoration project and have discussed briefly the major actions taking place in each one (fig. 1-1). The chapters that follow will provide more extensive information and tools to assist in your journey through the restoration project development process.

Restoration Strategies

Ultimately, ecological restoration relies on the autogenic (self-sustaining) capabilities of the ecosystem. The spectrum of ecological restoration activities can logically be divided into two major strategies: (1) management and (2) construction and installation (fig. 1-2). Management-based actions are intended to reinitiate processes that would have occurred without the stressors on-site. This return initiates a host of autogenic responses. Construction begins with obtaining the necessary elements for doing the work and documenting what has been done. Following installation, a period of maintenance and monitoring ensures the persistence of the developing ecosystem. Construction involves the active fashioning of items put together by arranging or connecting an array of parts. Examples of construction and installation strategies include planting plants, installing rock features, and changing the grade or elevation of the ground. The specific strategy or strategies you choose will depend on the number of degrading stress factors affecting the project site, the time horizon of your project, your budget, and your project goals and objectives. Most projects require the restoration team to use a combination of both construction and management strategies to meet the project goals and objectives.


Excerpted from Project Planning and Management for Ecological Restoration by John Rieger, John Stanley, Ray Traynor. Copyright © 2014 John Rieger, John Stanley, and Ray Traynor. Excerpted by permission of ISLAND PRESS.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


PART I. Project Planning,
Chapter 1. Framework for Ecological Restoration,
Chapter 2. Restoration Project Management,
Chapter 3. Defining Your Project,
PART II. Project Design,
Chapter 4. Site Analysis,
Chapter 5. Design Approach,
Chapter 6. Design,
Chapter 7. Water and Soil,
Chapter 8. Plant Material,
PART III. Project Implementation,
Chapter 9. Restoration Project Documents,
Chapter 10. Construction and Installation,
PART IV. Project Aftercare,
Chapter 11. Maintenance and Stewardship,
Chapter 12. Weed Management and Invasive Species Control,
Chapter 13. Monitoring and Evaluation,
PART V. Synthesis of the Process,
Chapter 14. Bring It All Together,
Chapter 15. Synopsis,
Appendix 1. Gantt Chart Primer,
Appendix 2. Project Cost Estimate Worksheet,
Appendix 3. Risk Management Steps,
Appendix 4. Project Evaluation and Review Technique,
Appendix 5. Site Analysis Checklist,
Appendix 6. Seed Quantity and Cost Calculation,
Appendix 7. Plant and Planting Specifications Worksheet,
Appendix 8. Checklist for Plan Review,
Appendix 9. Permits, Agreements, and Consultations That May Be Required for Ecological Restoration Projects in the United States,
Appendix 10. Completed Site Analysis Checklist for Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve,

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