Environmental Management

, Volume 30, Issue 5, pp 0631-0640

First online:

Restoration, Stewardship, Environmental Health, and Policy: Understanding Stakeholders' Perceptions

  • JOANNA BURGERAffiliated withConsortium for Risk Evaluation with Stakeholder Participation (CRESP) and, Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute, Division of Life Sciences, Rutgers University, Piscataway, New Jersey 08854-8082, USA

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In recent years there has been considerable interest in the health of humans and the environment, restoration of contaminated or otherwise degraded lands, and in long-term stewardship of public lands. Unfortunately, it is unclear whether governmental agencies and the public hold similar views about the meanings of these concepts, making policy decisions about restoration and stewardship difficult. In this paper, I explore how the public conceptualizes restoration and stewardship by examining the relative rating of several attributes of restoration, stewardship, environmental health, ecological health, environmental restoration, and ecological restoration. People were interviewed in Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA, near the Department of Energy's Los Alamos National Laboratory. The ratings of attributes of environmental health and ecological health reported in this paper can be used to understand how the public understands these concepts. The attributes rated most highly by the subjects were more similar to definitions in the scientific literature for these terms than they were to those used by the Department of Energy. For environmental health, the highest rating related to human sanitation, while for ecological health the highest rating was for maintaining functioning ecosystems. Reduction of exposure to hazardous substances was rated the second highest for both environmental and ecological health. The wise use of natural resources, preservation of natural resources, and hazardous waste site cleanup were rated the highest attributes of stewardship. These data suggest that both expert and nonexpert perceptions about restoration and stewardship should be incorporated into environmental management decisions.

KEY WORDS: Restoration; Stewardship; Remediation; Los Alamos; Ecological health.