According to the Society for Ecological Restoration, Ecological Restoration involves the process of assisting the recovery of an ecosystem that has been degraded, damaged, or destroyed (SER 2004). In southwestern ponderosa pine forests, the single greatest ecological change that has degraded ecological integrity has been a change in fire regimes as frequent, low-intensity ground fires have given way to severe crown fires (Covington and Moore 1994). Restoration of these forests centers on restoring a natural fire regime that, by killing seedling pines and promoting the growth of a vigorous herbaceous understory, will maintain forest structure in the future.
Ecological restoration of southwestern ponderosa pine forests offers the opportunity to improve the ecological values of these forests while also benefiting human values. Properly planned and implemented, restoration treatments have the potential to reduce the danger of severe, stand-replacing fires. They also can improve tree health; reduce the likelihood of insect outbreaks; benefit the diversity and overall health of herbaceous understory plants; and form part of an integrated strategy for maintaining and restoring wildlife populations. Restoration entails working with nature, rather than against it.