Integrating long-term stewardship goals into the remediation process: Natural resource damages and the Department of Energy

Joanna Burger, Michael Gochfeld, Charles W. Powers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


The United States and other developed countries are faced with restoring and managing degraded ecosystems. Evaluations of the degradation of ecological resources can be used for determining ecological risk, making remediation or restoration decisions, aiding stakeholders with future land use decisions, and assessing natural resource damages. Department of Energy (DOE) lands provide a useful case study for examining degradation of ecological resources in light of past or present land uses and natural resource damage assessment (NRDA). We suggest that past site history should be incorporated into the cleanup and restoration phase to reduce the ultimate NRDA costs, and hasten resource recovery. The lands that DOE purchased over 50 years ago ranged from relatively undisturbed to heavily impacted farmland, and the impact that occurred from DOE occupation varies from regeneration of natural ecosystems (benefits) to increased exposure to several stressors (negative effects). During the time of the DOE releases, other changes occurred on the lands, including recovery from the disturbance effects of farming, grazing, and residential occupation, and the cessation of human disturbance. Thus, the injury to natural resources that occurred as a result of chemical and radiological releases occurred on top of recovery of already degraded systems. Both spatial (size and dispersion of patch types) and temporal (past/present/future land use and ecological condition) components are critical aspects of resource evaluation, restoration, and NRDA. For many DOE sites, integrating natural resource restoration with remediation to reduce or eliminate the need for NRDA could be a win-win situation for both responsible parties and natural resource trustees by eliminating costly NRDAs by both sides, and by restoring natural resources to a level that satisfies the trustees, while being cost-effective for the responsible parties. It requires integration of remediation, restoration, and end-state planning to a greater degree than is currently done at most DOE sites.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)189-199
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


  • Department of Energy
  • Long-term stewardship
  • NRDA
  • Natural resource damage assessment
  • Natural resources
  • Remediation


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