A Review of Nature’s Restoration by Peter Friederici

This book details six ecological restoration efforts that are taking place in various parts of the country, and the people that started and/or are wholly committed to these ventures.  Peter Friederici traveled across the United States, from east to west, “following the course of empire and exploitation,” beginning in Bermuda and ending on the Hawaiian island of Kaho’olawe.  He worked with, interviewed, and documented the views of the people involved with these efforts.

The restoration projects that he researched and discussed are not exactly what I imagined as areas in need of restoring; I pictured land that had a high industrial use, brownfields, or abandoned mining sites, that are now being transformed into little inner-city oases, or being returned to something similar to what Mother Nature had originally intended.  Instead, he writes of initiatives with goals to turn the existing “natural” environment into the nature that was there (or what natural historians think was there) prior to colonization by Europeans.  These initiatives include:  bringing back one of the most abundant and important pre-colonial east coast trees–the American chestnut–that has all but disappeared due to a fungus which is believed to have been imported from China; turning wooded areas of the Chicago suburbs back to prairies and savannas which the first settlers documented seeing, those of which are now filled with non-native trees and shrubs; and restoring the Ponderosa Pine forests of Arizona and New Mexico back to a healthy condition, one which was lost after decades of wildfire suppression.

…if we don’t see something as an eyesore, the majority would say to leave it alone.  Popular sentiment would say that the changes created should not be undone.

Each project and its proponents are thoroughly portrayed, making the reader understand and feel the passion and commitment that these individuals have for their respective ecological crusades.  The paths they’ve taken, the unforeseen consequences, the political ramifications, and the struggles they have yet to encounter are all addressed.


This book opens the reader’s eyes to the dedication people hold to make things right in nature.  The individuals highlighted in this book have made life-long commitments to help get things back on nature’s track.  Most people would probably not advocate a restoration effort for these physical environments.  I perceive that, since nature provides such visual enjoyment, if we don’t see something as an eyesore, the majority would say to leave it alone.  Popular sentiment would say that the changes created should not be undone.  An aqua-blue lake in the middle of the desert helps the local economy through recreation dollars.  A never-ending pine forest is being protected from the scenic and economic destructiveness of a forest fire.  Unfortunately, these scenarios are what man intended and created, not nature.  As Friederici points out throughout his book, if these changes are not reversed, we will only pay for it later, with destruction from unstoppable wildfires, loss of biodiversity, or species extinction.

Nature’s Restoration gives a new perspective on rehabilitating nature and ecology, and how complex and controversial that can be.  The book also sends a very hopeful message that, with dedication and devotion, progress can be made in returning the land to its natural, healthy state.

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