The Elwha river restoration: challenges and opportunities for community engagement




Hilperts, Ryan Laurel

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As ecological restoration expands as a practice, so does the complexity, cost, and scale of many projects. Higgs (2003) terms these projects technological and argues they limit meaningful community focal restoration practices, one component of good ecological restoration. The planned removals of two large dams on the Elwha River in Washington State provide a case study to investigate this theory. I conducted 18 in-depth interviews with community leaders and restoration practitioners in order to explore the question, “How do technological restoration projects enable or constrain community engagement, and in the case of the Elwha River, how might such engagement be enlarged?” This interpretive study suggests that technological restoration projects, particularly when managed by federal agencies, expand engagement through a broadened 1) public audience and 2) suite of engagement activities. I argue for a “focusing” of engagement activities, and propose a matrix for assessing opportunities for local community engagement.



Elwha River, Washington (State), Ecological restoration, Community engagement, Environmental Studies, Dam removal, Salmon, Pacific Northwest, Focal restoration