Attempts to reclaim arid and semiarid lands have traditionally targeted plant species composition. Much research attention has been directed to seeding rates, species mixes and timing of seeding. However, in order to attain functioning systems, attention to structure and process must compliment existing efforts. We ask how to use a systems approach to enhance reclamation success. Using a case study example, we discuss ways to target key drivers that return the functional and dynamic nature of western wildlands. Integration of a multitude of abiotic (soil stability, hydrology and nutrient cycling) and biotic processes (plant functional traits, species turnover and regeneration, and wildlife interactions) into reclamation planning will be crucial to uniting research with management experience. Long-term monitoring coupled with tools to unify diverse datasets will be key to future management decisions. Reclamation is constrained by our inability to unify varied experiences with documented evidence. Research should assist managers with integrating spatial and temporal variability of ecosystem processes into long-term management planning. Using an integrated approach, we can more fully comprehend reclamation within the context of ecosystem function. An integrated knowledge base should serve as a communication tool and facilitate more sustainable landscape solutions.