Here's a New York Times article about new ideas in stream restoration. It does a great job of making presettlement environmental history seem at least a teensy-weensy bit sexy!
In the embedded video, Dorothy Merritts says that when we are considering the reasons for environmental problems, such as heavy silt loads deposited into the Cheasapeake Bay, "we can't just look around at modern land use and say 'We see agriculture—that's the problem. We see new suburbs—that's the problem.' Instead, go in and look at the history of that location."
Two good points here:
1. Land use history is not just interesting--it's an essential piece of knowledge to have in order to understand causes.
2. Over a billion dollars of private and public money is being spent on environmental restoration, but many projects are not based on evidence. The practice is advancing faster than the academic study of failures and successes.