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Keywords:

  • aesthetics;
  • ecological restoration;
  • public resistance;
  • visual perception

Ecological restoration efforts often encounter public resistance. Recreational visitors resist imposition of restoration efforts they fear may result in a visually unattractive area. Public support is, however, essential for restoration efforts on public lands. This study seeks insight into hiker perceptions of perceived attractiveness of nature before and after efforts to restore exotic conifer plantations to native communities containing bog and wet forest communities. Visitors (N = 247) to a Dutch National Park sorted 32 photographs depicting landscapes before and after restoration efforts. Findings show that the most attractive landscape types (bog and wet forest communities containing visible water) are results of restoration efforts and the least attractive landscape types (young deciduous and coniferous forest) are representative of traditional nature before restoration. However, the “middle category” consists of landscape types existing both before and after restoration efforts. Visitors value old coniferous and old deciduous forests as much as products of restoration that lack water. These perceptions are unrelated to either visitor characteristics or the provision of information to visitors explaining restoration goals. The continued existence of resistance to restoration strategies despite their effect on perceived landscape attractiveness implies that the experience of nature has more than only visual dimensions. We expect that more acceptable results of restoration efforts will emerge from the active engagement of the public before restoration practices take place in processes that specifically address feelings of attachment and resistance to change.