The environmental benefits of deliberative democracy are increasingly cited, but not well understood. Nor are the processes involved in arriving at deliberated policy preferences in contrast to those under the status quo. Analysis of the Far North Queensland Citizens' Jury (FNQCJ) reveals that the difference reflects as much a move away from a non-deliberative status quo as toward a deliberative ideal. Before deliberation, symbolic arguments proffered by political interests resulted in deep fracturing of an underlying environmental consensus. The deliberative process served to dissipate symbolic claims, liberating citizens to formulate their own judgements based largely on this pre-existing environmental concern. The findings suggest a focus for deliberative democracy in displacing symbolic politics that disenfranchises both nature and humans.