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Ecological democracy seeks environmentally sustainable ends through broad, active democratic participation. What happens when laws fostering participation in environmental decision-making and biodiversity preservation lead to differing results? What is best for biodiversity may not be what for local citizens believe is best. I examine conflicts and congruencies in the context of Biodiversity Offsetting, REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation), and the Rewilding movement. I ask questions that are legal (Who has what legal rights to speak for or against programs that enhance biodiversity?), epistemological (Whose expertise and knowledge matters when scientists and non-scientists don’t agree?), axiological (Are some values objectively better, and why?), and normative (Whose opinions about biodiversity should count?). Many people have the right to participate in an ecological democracy: But when protecting biodiversity, who does and should have the right to be heard? I problematize the role that ‘local’ actors play in decision-making and describe the variegated role that experts – particularly biologists – play in ecological democracy when biodiversity preservation matters. To determine whose values and voices should be prioritized, I describe ‘deep equity,’ an axiological and normative groundwork for determining when biodiversity- promoting policies may be preferable even if affected citizens don’t agree.

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Journal of Environmental Polcy & Planning