Exotic species have become increasingly significant management problems in parks and reserves and frequently complicate restoration projects. At the same time there may be circumstances in which their removal may have unforeseen negative consequences or their use in restoration is desirable. We review the types of effects exotic species may have that are important during restoration and suggest research that could increase our ability to set realistic management goals. Their control and use may be controversial; therefore we advocate consideration of exotic species in the greater context of community structure and succession and emphasize areas where ecological research could bring insight to management dilemmas surrounding exotic species and restoration. For example, an understanding of the potential transience of exotics in a site and the role particular exotics might play in changing processes that influence the course of succession is essential to setting removal priorities and realistic management goals. Likewise, a greater understanding of the ecological role of introduced species might help to reduce controversy surrounding their purposeful use in restoration. Here we link generalizations emerging from the invasion ecology literature with practical restoration concerns, including circumstances when it is practical to use exotic species in restoration.