Watershed Restoration: Principles and Practices

Chapter 3: Social Ecology: A New Pathway to Watershed Restoration

K. Preister and J. A. Kent

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9781888569049.ch3

A story from the South Pacific Islands about a protected species, the green sea turtle, helps explain social ecology concepts and their application. This turtle has become endangered because local opportunists sell its shell on the black market. The turtle population is dwindling to extinction. The federal agency that protects the turtle sends agents onto the island to trap and prosecute offenders. When they arrest one person, another opportunist emerges and the illegal killing resumes. Too few agents are present, so this enforcement model is not stopping the killing of the sea turtle.

Restoring the sea turtle requires an expanded approach that involves both the agency and the islanders. Local residents need to become involved in protecting the turtle, supplementing the government’s enforcement program. And the agency must look beyond its narrow mandate and recognize that recovery of this species will depend on something larger: the cultural restoration of island residents.