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Marion Hourdequin Argues for 'Multi-Layered Restoration'

The Dirt, an online blog of the American Society of Landscape Architects, recently covered a symposium that Colorado College Associate Philosophy Professor Marion Hourdequin helped organize at the Society for Ecological Restoration’s meeting last month in Madison, Wis.

The symposium focused on “Restoration: Another Layer of History” and explored questions of ecological restoration, history, and meaning in post-industrial landscapes. In these complex landscapes, earlier layers of history often hold important meanings and restoration raises challenging questions regarding which elements of the past to erase and which to retain. Participants at the symposium argued that it is important to protect these meanings as landscapes long-damaged by industrial or military use are restored.

Hourdequin’s research centers on the 17,000-acre Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, which has a rich history that goes beyond the “weapons-to-wildlife” narrative frequently used to characterize the site. She argues that “most traditional ecological restoration projects aren’t up to preserving diverse values,” but in complex, layered landscapes like the arsenal, restoration should not focus solely on erasing human influence, as has been its traditional goal. Instead, restoration and interpretation of layered landscapes should take account of the diverse narratives that characterize these places and weave restoration into the socio-ecological histories of the land. “We need a middle way that integrates humans and nature, because human values are intertwined with places,” she says.

The symposium is one outgrowth of a National Science Foundation-funded project on the social and ethical dimensions of ecological restoration that David Havlick, associate professor of geography and environmental studies at University of Colorado—Colorado Springs, and Hourdequin have been working on for the past four years.  Hourdequin and Havlick are currently at work on an edited volume, tentatively titled “Restoring Layered Landscapes: History, Ecology, and Culture,” that addresses related themes.