Ecology in Policymaking: Water and the Restoration of America's Snake River Plain

Document Type


Publication Date




Myth presented as science complicates green engineering attempts to restore the natural condition of degraded ecosystems. Ecologists have yet to provide a widely accepted theory of how rivers and wetlands functioned before human disturbance, and engineers cannot restore what science cannot describe. In the American West, where the powerful Snake River feeds the Columbia en route to the Pacific Ocean, water developers and their opponents both use the language of science to defend or attack one of the world's most sprawling network of dams and hydropower projects. The case of the Snake River shows how thoroughly mythic thinking and grandiose expectations for nature have saddled the policy process with ambiguous language and goals.