Recovery of ecological systems is an often-stated goal of activities associated with Superfund sites, toxic spills, and the restoration of habitats such as the Florida Everglades. Often recovery is associated with constructs related to ecosystem health, integrity, or sustainability. Return to an original state has been demonstrated empirically not to be an option. Integrity and sustainability are not defined in a quantitative fashion amenable to prediction. We present two alternative quantitative descriptions of the goals of restoration activities. The first uses surveys of supposedly unimpacted sites to define a multivariate description of the expected community given the specifications of the abiotic factors. The second uses stakeholder-desired characteristics of an ecological system to define the desired ranges for various ecosystem functions and/or structural characteristics and to form an assessment space. With these approaches, a risk assessment can determine the stressors causing the displacement of the system and management options to return to the assessment space. Management goals and actions can be directed at those variables and monitoring programs can be established to measure progress. Assessments about system status relate directly to the properties of concern and the management goals. The methodology does permit the reconstruction of important resources and other valued components of ecological systems.