Abstract: Current planning and legislation in California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta call for the large-scale ecological restoration of aquatic and terrestrial habitats. These ecological mandates have emerged in response to the region’s infrastructural transformation and the Delta’s predominant use as the central logistical hub in the state’s vast water conveyance network. Restoration is an attempt to recover what was externalized by the logic and abstractions of this logistical infrastructure. However, based on findings from our research, which examined how people are using restored and naturalized landscapes in the Delta and how these landscapes are currently planned for, we argue that as mitigatory response, restoration planning continues some of the same spatial abstractions and inequities by failing to account for the Delta as an urbanized, cultural and unique place. In interpreting how these conditions have come to be, we give attention to a pluralistic landscape approach and a coevolutionary reading of planning, policy, science and landscapes to discuss the conservation challenges presented by “Delta as an Evolving Place”. We suggest that for rewilding efforts to be successful in the Delta, a range of proactive, opportunistic, grounded and participatory tactics will be required to shift towards a more socio-ecological approach.
Keywords: California Delta; coevolution; complexity; conservation; infrastructure; landscape approach; logistics landscape; place; scenario planning; water