The island marble butterfly (Euchloe ausonides insulanus), thought to be extinct throughout the 20th century until re-discovered on a single remote island in Puget Sound in 1998, has become the focus of a concerted protection effort to prevent its extinction. However, efforts to “restore” island marble habitat conflict with efforts to “restore” the prairie ecosystem where it lives, because of the butterfly’s use of a non-native “weedy” host plant. Through a case study of the island marble project, we examine the practice of ecological restoration as the enactment of particular norms that define which species are understood to belong in the place being restored. We contextualize this case study within ongoing debates over the value of “native” species, indicative of deep-seated uncertainties and anxieties about the role of human intervention to alter or manage landscapes and ecosystems, in the time commonly described as the “Anthropocene.” We interpret the question of “what plants and animals belong in a particular place?” as not a question of scientific truth, but a value-laden construct of environmental management in practice, and we argue for deeper reflexivity on the part of environmental scientists and managers about the social values that inform ecological restoration.

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