I've been working with reclamation in the Great Basin for 17 years and personally know the learned gentlemen interviewed by Jon Christensen. Your article left me feeling like all our efforts over the years (HCN, 5/22/00: Save Our Sagebrush) have little show.
I agree that the crested wheat plantations are more like museums than positive successional states. Likewise, the weeds are overwhelming and new species are invading all the time. However, at several of our project sites we are having success germinating the native grasses and shrubs that all parties are interested in.
These sites may never return to their predisturbance condition, due to the radical disruptions in landform and soil conditions, but if the natives are germinated and we can witness seral advance, I will continue to be optimistic that we can heal our wounds.
We have worked on the Sierra Pacific utility corridor from Reno to Oregon and, even though the progress has been slow, after four years, we have successfully established many sections with pre-disturbance native grasses. Likewise, at several of our Great Basin mine sites, if we pay attention to soils and seeding techniques, we are germinating diverse native communities. Even in Reno, we have success at several sites with establishing diverse native communities. At all of these sites, native grasses are holding their own against the shrubs, and I suspect that the absence of cattle is allowing these grasses to proliferate.
In the end, restoration is an evasive condition. These plant communities evolved over thousands of years and our projects may just be ecological Band-Aids. Our children and grandchildren will be better judges of our successes and failures.