society for ecological restoration

Society for Ecological Restoration with Bethanie Walder

With this episode, I checked off a guest I had on my short list since beginning the show late last year. You could say it’s a great “primer” on ecological restoration. Haha. Only the most hardcore will get that joke.

Joining me is Bethanie Walder, Society for Ecological Restoration’s Executive Director. She connected with me for this conversation via Skype from her homebase in Missoula, Montana.

Founded in 1988, the Society for Ecological Restoration is a global community of restoration professionals on all the continents and waters of the world. The mission of the Society for Ecological Restoration (SER or the Society for short) is to advance the science, practice and policy of ecological restoration to sustain biodiversity, improve resilience in a changing climate, and re-establish an ecologically healthy relationship between nature and culture. To use a term I read recently, SER allows us to live in the realm of possibility.

Bethanie joined the Society for Ecological Restoration as Executive Director in September 2015 and has more than 20 years’ experience in environmental conservation, restoration and education. She is responsible for helping guide SER's overall work to achieve its mission. Bethanie is an alum from Duke University as well as the University of Montana.

Prior to joining the SER, Bethanie worked in conservation and restoration for nongovernmental organizations where she oversaw several highly successful conservation and restoration campaigns. Bethanie has also worked as an organizational development, strategic planning and natural resources management consultant. She was a founding member of several coalitions and advocacy organizations including Women’s Voices for the Earth and the Washington Watershed Restoration Initiative.

I imagine many folks listening have some connection to the Society. You may be one of our 3000+ members in 81 countries worldwide, or you may have read some articles from the Restoration Ecology journal, you may have seen one of their numerous webinar…or this may be the first you have heard about it. In my mind, everyone listening will observe the impact of SER in the coming years.

Before we get into our conversation, I feel compelled to highlight Bethanie’s mention of the Salvage Logging Rider in like minute 2 of the interview. I hadn’t heard anyone utter that term for years, and it confers enviro street cred.

Who remembers the Salvage Rider? This is PROBABLY more information than you want to know, but it was a trying time during the NW timber wars. It was probably the, if not one of the, moments in time that sparked my interest in environmentalism and protecting the earth.

Signed by Bill Clinton, the 1995 Emergency Salvage Timber Sale Program was a provision in the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act of 1995 to expedite salvage timber sales from 1995 to 1996. The practice of salvage logging was, and can still be, a controversial practice of logging trees that have been damaged by disturbance. Promoted by the likes of US Senator Slade Gorton, the salvage rider was extra contentious because is expanded timber sales and suspended environmental review during this time. Another layer of complexity was that it reinstated numerous “Option 9” timber sales in Washington and Oregon that had been stopped because they were part of the area covered by the 1994 Northwest Forest Plan – formulated to protect endangered and threatened species habitat of the northern spotted owl. More crazy things happened in 2003 when this practice was revived President George W. Bush who signed into law the “Healthy Forests Initiative,” officially the Healthy Forests Restoration Act – just about the same thing, more salvage less environmental review.

High Country News Susan Elderkin Sept. 2, 1996 What a difference a year makes

We covered a lot of ground. This was a whirlwind talk about the inner workings of the Society. During this conversation, we discuss

  • the trajectory of her career from Salvage Rider to becoming the big boss of SER

  • she highlighted a few eclectic projects

  • how SER practitioners aren’t just focused on land-based restoration. For example, the Society partnered with the Nature Conservancy to produce Restoration Guidelines for Shellfish Reefs

  • how the Society is focused on serving its current membership with resources and networking opportunities while continuing to grow in all regions of the world.

  • takeaways from the 8th World Conference on Ecological Restoration last fall in Capetown, South Africa – the first restoration world conference on the African continent

  • the role SER plays as the principal scientific clearinghouse for restoration resources from local to international scales. While we work at our individual site, citywide, regional level projects, meanwhile Bethanie, her staff and volunteers are advocating for the highest level of restoration possible on international restoration-related initiatives such as Achieving Global Biodiversity Targets AND the early makings of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration

  • the evolution of the 2nd edition of the International Standards for the Practice of Ecological Restoration

  • increasing the effectiveness and impact of restoration practice through the world's first certification program for ecological restoration, which has certified upwards of 400 professionals so far

  • the challenges of restoration in the face of irreversible environmental change

  • the future of SER

  • and much more…