Managers of parks and natural areas are increasingly faced with difficult decisions concerning restoration of disturbed lands. Financial and workforce resources often limit these restoration efforts, and rarely can a manager afford to address all concerns within the region of interest. With limited resources, managers and scientists have to decide which areas will be targeted for restoration and the restoration treatments to use in these areas. A broad range of approaches are used to make such decisions, from well-researched expert opinions (Cipollini et al. 2005) to gut feeling, with variable degrees of input from site visits, data collection, and data analysis used to support the decision. A standardized approach including an analytical assessment of site characteristics based on the best information available, with a written or electronic record of all the steps taken along the way, would make comparisons among a group of sites easier and lend credibility through use of common, documented criteria at all sites. In response to these concerns, we have developed the Restoration Rapid Assessment Tool (RRAT). RRAT is based on field observations of key indicators of site degradation, stressors influencing the site, value of the site with respect to larger management objectives, likelihood of achieving the management goals, and logistical constraints to restoration. The purpose of RRAT is not to make restoration decisions or prescribe methods, but rather to ensure that a basic set of pertinent issues are considered for each site and to facilitate comparisons among sites. Several concepts have been central to the development of RRAT. First, the management goal (also known as desired future condition) of any site under evaluation should be defined before the field evaluation begins. Second, the evaluation should be based upon readily observable indicators so as to avoid cumbersome field methods. Third, the ease with which site stressors can be ameliorated must be factored into the evaluation. Fourth, intrinsic site value must be assessed independently of current condition. Finally, logistical considerations must also be addressed. Our initial focus has been on riparian areas because they are among the most heavily impacted habitat types, and RRAT indicators reflect this focus.
Additional publication details
Federal Government Series
The Restoration Rapid Assessment Tool: An Access/Visual Basic application