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Myth, metaphor, and the social dimensions of restoration in the Great Basin
Mark Brunson, Utah State University, Logan, UT
The term “restoration” is fraught with subjective meanings that differ depending on the ecological knowledge and value orientations of those who hear or use it. For example, a manager might use the term to refer to activities such as herbicide application or mechanical removal of shrubs and trees, while some stakeholders might see those activities as pure destruction. In fact, “restoration” may be best understood not as a specific set of scientifically justified activities, but as a metaphor for activities which reflect the values of managers and are believed to reflect a wider value set of stakeholders. To test this perspective, I compared responses to public opinion surveys about management of rangelands in different parts of the West, including one survey where we experimentally manipulated the words used to describe activities commonly included as “restoration” practices. Results show that attitudes differ based on geography, threat perceptions, and experiences with land managers. Surprisingly, the language used to “frame” the restoration context was less influential.