Scholars have observed that ecosystem restoration is as much about bringing project actors together to define a socially tenable vision for a target restoration landscape as it is about using science to discern a landscape's historic ecological conditions (Hull and Robertson 2000, Higgs 2003). In this way, ecosystem restoration raises important questions about how different project actors and communities define successful restoration, and how these different groups and their ideas can be brought together to craft a clear and shared vision for regional restoration. In fact, much of ecosystem restoration is about having the necessary debates and dialogues to establish a "region's way of seeing, knowing and living with its nature" (Helford 2002, 120). One of the first steps in understanding how different project communities define restoration success is to conduct social science research to map out the views and attitudes of different community actors.
This project - a social survey designed and developed by an interdisciplinary team of Everglades restoration practitioners and scholars - focused on the Florida Everglades, the site of one of the world's largest and most prominent ecosystem restoration projects. Authorized in 2000 by the U.S. Congress, Everglades restoration includes 63 projects aimed at rehabilitating the remnants of the historic Everglades ecosystem, which spans 18,000 square miles from the headwaters of Lake Okeechobee southward to Everglades National Park and Florida Bay (Salt, Langton and Doyle 2008). The survey targeted environmental organizations working in the Florida Everglades and their allies, who have played an important role in shaping Everglades restoration projects. For the purposes of the study, the Everglades environmental community was defined as "2010 Everglades Coalition member organizations and Everglades Coalition conference attendees." The Everglades Coalition, an alliance of over 50 environmental groups, has served as an important forum for exploring differing viewpoints and for setting goals for restoration initiatives throughout the restoration process. This survey examined how the Everglades Coalition's environmental organizations and supporters defined Everglades restoration success, especially in light of the political, scientific and social changes that have occurred in the decade since the Everglades restoration program was federally authorized. Specifically, the survey asked five key questions about: 1) the role of different types of consensus in creating successful restoration, 2) what a fully restored Everglades looks like, 3) defining key benchmarks for successful restoration, 4) why restoring the Everglades is important and 5) identifying the biggest barriers to restoration. Lead project researcher, Rebecca Garvoille, distributed the survey, collected responses and analyzed survey data using the survey analysis software Qualtrics. Please contact Rebecca Garvoille at firstname.lastname@example.org
with questions about the complete survey dataset.
Survey results offer an important evaluation of the ideas and attitudes of environmental organizations after a decade of Everglades restoration and provide an important foundation on which to build a shared vision for Everglades restoration and its success into the future.