The estimated billion acres globally of degraded forests presents a formidable challenge to scientists, managers, and policymakers.Where to restore What methods are appropriate The complexity is compounded by the prospect of altered climate, including near-term increase in the frequency of extreme events. Crafting a response to the forest restoration challenge is further complicated by the lack of consensus on what constitutes degradation and appropriate restoration goals. To provide managers with an understanding of the many factors to be considered in planning and undertaking forest restoration, the Forest Service Deputy Chief for Research and Development requested a synthesis of contemporary approaches to forest restoration. Forest Service scientists worked to synthesize the science underpinning contemporary forest restoration. In two publications and an expert workshop (that in itself resulted in a special issue of the Journal of Sustainable Forestry), they explored the several paradigms underlying contemporary approaches to restoration. They presented a consistent terminology for the following restoration strategies: reclamation, reconstruction, rehabilitation, and replacement. Available tools include appropriate plant material and their deployment and methods for manipulating vegetation that depend on extent of initial overstory present, area to be restored, complexity of the planting design, and site conditions. Global change, climate variability, biotechnology, and synthetic biology are emerging issues that underscore the importance of clearly defined goals focused on functional ecosystems. Long-term monitoring and evaluation embedded in adaptive management are needed to ensure restoration is successful and sustainable. No restoration project is undertaken in a social vacuum and social factors can trump biophysical considerations.