Current Position: Water Resources Analyst, GSI Water Solutions, Inc., Corvallis, OR
Abstract: In the western United States, climate change is likely to bring greater uncertainty and extreme events outside the range for which water infrastructure, governance, and allocation mechanisms have been designed. In addition, many water systems already struggle with issues of institutional fragmentation, ineffective governance, and unsustainable management practices. Adaptive capacity, or the ability to cope with stressors and adjust to changing conditions, is a critical factor in reducing system vulnerability and increasing resilience. Two governance approaches, integrated water resources management and polycentricity, have been posited to increase adaptive capacity by reducing fragmentation of governance across sectors and levels of government. This paper examines the water planning and governance systems of 11 states to (1) assess the extent to which they incorporate or promote integrated resources management and polycentricity, and (2) characterize the states’ adaptive capacity based on the determinants of (a) comprehensiveness and integration, (b) knowledge and learning, (c) resources, (d) authority and legitimacy, and (e) participation and networks. While governance approaches among states differ based on their historical development, stakeholder preferences, and other contextual factors, states which incorporate more integrated water resources management principles and display more polycentric tendencies in their water governance were found to have higher levels of all adaptive capacity determinants except for resources. Potential approaches to increase adaptive capacity and promote sustainable, secure water futures in the study area could include better integration of management concerns, greater data sharing and accessibility, dedicated investment in water planning and project implementation, enabling communities or regions to self-organize and tailor local solutions to water issues, and building more inclusive stakeholder engagement and participation processes. The development of inclusiveness and local self-organizing authority could be particularly critical in overcoming institutional rigidity and path dependence, helping to gain the public support needed to reshape entrenched systems.
Pike-Urlacher, Zach, MS, 2019, Water Resource Policy and Management, “Reconciling Developed Landscapes with Aquatic Ecosystem Integrity: Emerging Governance Surrounding Beaver-Related Watershed Restoration in the Upper Nehalem Watershed and Jack Creek, Oregon.”
Current Position: Water Resources Analyst, GSI Water Solutions, Inc., Corvallis, OR
Abstract: Reconciling working landscapes with Endangered Species Act (ESA) requirements is a vexing challenge playing out in watersheds across the western United States. Beaver-related watershed restoration (BRR) methodologies have the potential to reconcile competing demands for resource extraction and recovery of ESA-listed species by restoring ecosystem functionality more effectively and at a lower cost than other watershed restoration strategies. BRR also provides a compromise between landscape scale, process-based restoration methodologies, such as Stage Zero, and more passive and prescriptive management treatments, such as riparian fencing. The research utilizes a variety of qualitative methods and a case study approach to explore emerging governance surrounding BRR in the Upper Nehalem Watershed and Upper Klamath Basin, both in Oregon. The case studies are analyzed using a conceptual framework that draws on adaptive governance theory to identify opportunities and barriers associated with efforts to reconcile ESA implementation with working landscapes. The thesis concludes with recommendations for overcoming identified barriers and supporting further experimentation with this novel approach to enhancing the resilience of western watersheds.
Current Position: Project Manager, Crook County Soil and Water Conservation District, Prineville, OR
Abstract: In the U.S. West thousands of miles of incised streams on rangelands limit the output of ecosystem services including the provisioning services needed for productive agricultural systems and the regulating and supporting services associated with functional wildlife habitat. State and federal agencies across the U.S. West spend millions of dollars every year restoring incised streams. Project approaches range from passive methods to reduce grazing pressure and erosion such as fencing riparian corridors to exclude livestock grazing to active approaches such as Natural Channel Design, which involves engineering intensive, reach-scale projects that aim to halt down cutting by creating new forms (e.g. logs, rocks) within the channel. Over the past several decades, river restoration specialists have experimented with a variety of solutions to the incised streams problem with an emphasis on channel reconstruction, which is expensive to install and limits access to restoration opportunities. There is a growing body of research on the use of beaver-related stream restoration as scientists increasingly recognize beaver dams as an affordable approach to stream restoration and species recovery. This study was developed as part of a larger, interdisciplinary research effort to assess the social, hydrological, and ecological effects of beaver-related stream restoration as a tool for improving the recovery trajectory of incised streams on western rangelands. The social science component of this project characterized the human dimensions of beaver-related stream restoration on rangelands in the U.S. West by conducting interviews to inform understanding of beaver-rancher-livestock interactions.
Detwiler, Stacey, MS, 2016, Water Resource Policy and Management, “Rivers and Roads: Exploring How Environmental Governance Impacts State Management of Forest Roads in Oregon, Washington and California.”
Current Position: Conservation Director, Rogue Riverkeeper, Ashland, OR
Abstract: This study explores how environmental governance mechanisms affect state management of forest roads to address the chronic delivery of sediment to streams in Oregon, Washington, and California on private and state forestlands. Forest roads can degrade water quality and harm aquatic life when runoff mobilizes fine sediments from the road surface into streams. This study uses content analysis and semi-structured interviews with experts in each state to describe and evaluate the environmental governance mechanisms that shape state approaches to forest road management. General trends, such as the strong role of the Endangered Species Act and weaker role of the Clean Water Act, were found across all three states in varying degrees. In Washington, the role of tribal reserved rights emerged as a unique driver of policy compared to Oregon and California. This research reveals that federal laws around non-point source pollution and endangered species conservation play out differently in different contexts and can be used to inform decision-making as the EPA assesses potential changes to management of forest roads at the federal level under the Clean Water Act.
Colon-Almodovar, Yamilette, MS, 2015, Geography, “Social, Ecological, and Economic Outcomes Associated with Stewardship Forestry in the Siuslaw Watershed.”
Current Position: Science Teacher, Duval County (FL) Public Schools.
Abstract: In 1994, with the approval of the Northwest Forest Plan, the livelihood of individuals in the surrounding communities of the Siuslaw National Forest and Siuslaw Watershed were further impacted by already diminished traditional timber practices. In 2003, the United States Forest Service developed an innovative program, stewardship contracting, aimed at achieving land management and forest restoration goals while fulfilling local and rural community needs (United States Forest Service, 2009). However, 20 years after the Northwest Forest Plan and over 10 years after the implementation of stewardship contracting, there remains a need for assessing the social, ecological, and economic outcomes associated with the practice. This project used a case study approach involving semi–structured interviews of individuals involved with stewardship contracting in the study area. Evaluation of the outcomes indicates that stewardship contracting has to some degree contributed to social, economic, and ecological benefits for communities in the area. Stewardship contracting seems to have improved trust and communication between agencies, organizations, environmental groups, and individuals of the community. It has increased job availability in the area; however, availability has not rebounded to peak levels observed before the Northwest Forest Plan was implemented. One of the main findings relating to ecological outcomes is how little information is available. Together, these findings revealed that correlation does not equal causation, since traditional timber contracts also play an important role in the social, economic and ecological sustainability of these communities.
Current Position: Whitney MacMillan Professor of Practice, Private Lands Stewardship Program, Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources, University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY
Abstract: The concept of ecosystem services broadens perspectives on nature to include not only intrinsic value but also the utilitarian value it provides to society. Viewing nature through this lens informs our understanding of how particular ecological processes benefit different actors. In this research, I examine how water utilities in the United States are beginning to recognize the economic value of functioning ecosystems that were previously ignored or taken for granted. In an effort to protect or restore valuable ecosystem services, many utilities are now developing payments for ecosystem services (PES) programs to link water customers to conservation efforts upstream through direct financial investments. Despite the increasing number of water utility PES programs, there is a lack of information regarding how these programs work, the social and environmental conditions necessary for their emergence, and how they fit into the context of their larger social-ecological systems (SES). This research addresses this gap. To characterize the diversity of water utility PES programs, I developed a working typology highlighting similarities and differences among 37 identified programs covering source water protection, fire risk mitigation, point source pollution offsets, voluntary customer offsets, and hydropower mitigation. Results from my research also show that the concept of PES has largely been promoted as a market-like approach to conservation that emphasizes economic efficiency through reduced transaction costs, perfect information, and the minimization of the role of state actors. While this framing of PES is widely shared, I argue that it does not capture the diversity of social and environmental settings in which PES programs are embedded. Instead, I demonstrate that PES initiatives often emerge in response to a variety of institutional needs, poorly understood environmental drivers, and involve a diversity of public and private actors. As a result, I argue that PES is better viewed through a broader “collective action” lens and suggest that those developing PES initiatives should expand from a focus on the market logic of efficiency to approaches that promote social capital and the collaborative capacity of community groups in the implementation of PES programs. I also argue that a more integrative conceptualization of PES—through synthesis with the SES framework—is necessary to take into account the broader social and ecological landscapes in which PES initiatives are embedded. The SES framework can provide insight into the multitude of factors that influence PES and facilitate the integration of knowledge from diverse disciplinary perspectives by providing a common language and consistency in the variables considered in analyses. To this end, I present an initial effort in the development of a taxonomy of core variables relevant to analyzing and understanding PES. I feel this adapted SES framework will help scholars move beyond academic debates and towards a shared understanding of the potential and limitations of PES as a policy mechanism for addressing complex ecosystem service management problems in diverse SESs.
Current Position: Assistant Professor of Water Policy & Governance, W.A. Franke College of Forestry and Conservation, University of Montana, Missoula, MT
Abstract: The concept of “adaptive governance” represents a spectrum of hybrid approaches to environmental governance employed to guide management of complex social-ecological systems under conditions of high uncertainty. While the concept of adaptive governance has benefited from over a decade of theoretical development, empirical examples of transitions towards adaptive governance are lacking across a host of disciplinary literatures that approach environmental governance, including scholarship on resilience, law, human geography, and political science. In addition, there is no common framework and methodology to explore, analyze, and compare empirical examples of AG. To address these gaps, I propose a framework for identifying and characterizing empirical evidence of transitions toward adaptive governance. I then apply the proposed framework to analyze a case study of a governance transition taking place in the Klamath Basin, USA between 2001-2010, which includes the recent (2010) development of a set of negotiated agreements aimed at comprehensive, basin-scale, social-ecological restoration. Methods for this study include a review of public records and technical resource management documents, as well as 38 semi-structured interviews with individuals intimately involved in the Klamath governance transition. This data further informs a series of institutional mapping and social network analysis methods that clearly describe the emergence and institutionalization of adaptive governance in the basin. The Klamath case reveals that the literature lacks any substantial discussion of power and politics relative to transitions toward adaptive governance. Further, I argue that an investigation into the role of power and politics cannot be avoided in adaptive governance research as the process of unraveling political interactions can reveal root causes of transformations in environmental governance. Political forces acting upon processes of adaptive governance have the potential to defray or reinforce ecological degradation and social marginalization in terms of access to resources. Thus, research on adaptive governance can benefit from the additional analytical lens of political ecology in an effort to address the normative commitments inherent in a transition toward adaptive governance. Lastly, this dissertation suggests that the most pressing work to be done with regard to adaptive governance is to determine how to foster conditions that allow emergence of adaptive governance, and how to support some degree of institutionalization across the current range of approaches to environmental governance.
Current Position: Equity Coordinator for Sustainability and Basic Needs Resource, Southern Oregon University, Ashland, OR
Abstract: Adaptive collaborative (co-) management has received increased recognition as a novel approach to environmental governance that combines the dynamic learning features of adaptive management with the linking and network features of collaborative management. This approach is concerned with fostering sustainable livelihoods and ecological sustainability in the face of uncertainty and change. Despite the growing interest in adaptive co-management, little is known about processes useful for catalyzing adaptive co-management arrangements. This paper considers the potential of a government-led initiative designed to build capacity for adaptive collaborative management. We present the results of our study comparing the outcomes of this approach to those forwarded by the adaptive co-management literature, identifying process and context factors that influence the initiative’s effectiveness. A multi-case study approach was utilized to assess the degree to which the initiative helped catalyze adaptive co-management of public-lands riparian areas in seven cases in the western U.S. We found that the initiative influenced improvements in knowledge, trust among participants, and shared understanding. In most cases the initiative also helped work towards improvements in the management of specific community-level riparian issues. However, the initiative had a limited influence on the self-organization of new or modified governance arrangements capable of supporting cross-scale networks and ongoing cycles of learning from actions; key features of adaptive co-management. We found that employing adaptive co-management processes did not necessarily result in ongoing adaptive co-management arrangements. The presence of exogenous factors such as existing group capacity and facilitative leadership played an important role in determining whether the riparian initiative resulted in lasting outcomes, regardless of the approach used. We also identified constraints affecting the initiative’s ability to facilitate authentic dialogue and develop high-quality agreements. Our results suggest that government-led interventions aimed at catalyzing the transformation of governance arrangements toward adaptive co-management may face significant barriers. Suggestions for future research include further investigation of the barriers and opportunities for government to help catalyze adaptive co-management, and the role of scale in the emergence of ongoing cross-scale networks.
Burright, Harmony, MS, 2012, Water Resource Policy and Management, “Beyond Random Acts of Conservation: An Institutional Analysis of the Natural Resource Conservation Service’s Agricultural Water Enhancement Program.”
Current Position: Planning Coordinator, Oregon Water Resources Department, Salem, OR
Abstract: Irrigated agriculture accounts for 90 percent of consumptive use of freshwater in the western US and is considered the largest contributor to nonpoint source water pollution. The diffuse nature of most water quality and quantity challenges necessitates institutions that can more effectively engage agricultural producers in strategic, integrated, watershed-scale approaches to water management such as those associated with Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM). With approximately 9,400 professionals working in nearly every one of the nation’s 3,071 counties and an emphasis on voluntary, incentives-based approaches to conservation, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is well poised to influence land and water management on private working lands. NRCS conservation programs, however, have been criticized as “random acts of conservation” that lack a strategic vision for addressing natural resource challenges at-scale. Using NRCS’s new Agricultural Water Enhancement Program (AWEP) as a case study, this paper seeks to examine the factors that enable or inhibit NRCS from promoting an integrated approach to water management consistent with IWRM principles. Following the Institutional Analysis and Development (IAD) framework this paper traces the development of AWEP and examines how the rules established at the national level impact implementation at the national, state and local levels. The paper then evaluates AWEP based on a set of six IWRM design principles to determine (a) the extent to which AWEP represents an IWRM approach, and (b) the institutional factors that facilitate or inhibit NRCS from taking a more integrated approach to water management. I found that institutional factors vary greatly between levels of analysis depending on the specific context, but did identify several consistent enablers and barriers. The three most significant factors that facilitate an IWRM approach are: (1) AWEP’s focus on priority resource concerns within a defined hydrographic area; (2) AWEP’s emphasis on pursuing a partnership-based approach; and (3) increased local involvement in defining projects. The three most significant factors that inhibit an IWRM approach are: (1) a lack of clarity concerning partner roles and responsibilities and constraints on partner involvement; (2) limited flexibility of existing program rules; and (3) limited local capacity to engage with landowners and implement projects. The paper offers institutional recommendations for facilitating an IWRM approach within NRCS, and concludes with a consideration of the utility of IWRM design principles and the IAD framework for analyzing water management institutions.
Paulekas, Robyn, MS, 2010, Water Resource Policy and Management, “Fostering Social-Ecological Resilience in the Upper Klamath Basin: The National Riparian Service Team’s Creeks & Communities Strategy as an Emerging Model for Government in Adaptive Co-Management.”
Current Position: Senior Mediator and Program Manager, Meridian Institute, Keystone, CO
Abstract: Social-ecological resilience theory is part of a new paradigm for understanding and managing complex coupled human-ecological systems. The theory aims to inform explorations of a system’s ability to withstand disturbance while maintaining its critical functions. Adaptive co-management has been proposed as a governance mechanism that can enhance resiliency by combining the shared learning components of adaptive management with collaborative and community-based approaches to natural resource management. This new paradigm poses a challenge for government agencies charged with overseeing the nation’s natural resources, however, since many still embrace a more traditional centralized, science-based decision making approach. The National Riparian Service Team (NRST or Team), an interagency partnership between the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service, is an example of a federal agency that is experimenting with this new paradigm. This study draws on concepts associated with resiliency and adaptive co-management as a basis for evaluating one aspect of the NRST’s Creeks & Communities Strategy (Strategy), which was designed to address both the technical and social aspects of riparian management across ownership boundaries using a place-based approach to problem solving. Using the Upper Klamath Basin as a case study, we found the NRST to be an effective catalyst for adaptive co-management, at least in part because of the timing of its intervention, which occurred during what we characterize as a phase of reorganization following the 2001 collapse of the social-ecological system. Two major components of the Team’s approach are highlighted for their role in promoting adaptive co-management and enhancing the resilience of the Upper Klamath Basin social-ecological system: (1) the concept at the core of the NRST’s approach to riparian health assessment, Proper Functioning Condition (PFC), which both provides a qualitative measure of resilient capacity and promotes social learning and joint-fact finding; and (2) the Team’s emphasis on collaboration and cross-scale communication, which builds social capital and enhances community capacity to garner resources from other scales. Finally, we suggest that while the NRST exemplifies an effective and important new role for government actors in ecosystem management, there are a number of barriers currently preventing this model from being widely adopted in other government agencies.
Current Position: Director, Forest Ecosystem Monitoring Cooperative, Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT
Abstract: This research sought to explore the implications of different tenure regimes for both landscape-level ecological processes and the overall resilience of a social-ecological system in Central Oregon. The purchase by an investor of former industrial timberlands known as the Bull Springs tract raised the specter of dispersed residential development on the periphery of Bend, Oregon, leading to legislation redefining tenure in the region. This research examined how different forms of tenure on the tract would affect landscape level ecological processes and how the enacted tenure redefinition might affect the resilience of the social-ecological system to future perturbations. Data simulating the future vegetation conditions under two tenure scenarios on the Bull Springs – dispersed residential development and working forest management – were used to map habitat for three species representing different ecosystem services. Landscape pattern metrics were used to compare the simulated differences in spatial patterns of mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) habitat, American marten (Martes americana) habitat and old-growth ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) woodlands. The results were then interpreted using a social-ecological systems framework describing linkages between tenure and ecological processes. Results from the simulation modeling showed multifunctional habitat patches for mule deer became more isolated and smaller when the Bull Springs was developed, and development of the tract led to greater average isolation of habitat patches, lowered extensiveness across the landscape and a reduction of most measures of total habitat area for both mule deer and American marten. Ponderosa pine woodlands grew substantially in quantity under both scenarios, but the development of the Bull Springs removed a large swath from the middle of the ponderosa pine belt, interrupted north-south connectivity and reduced the extent of potential ponderosa pine woodland conditions. Development projected to occur outside the Bull Springs largely determined the cumulative impacts of both scenarios, but working forest management would be an improvement over development for most metrics for the three species. With respect to resilience, the legislative tenure redefinition would change the linkages between communities in the region and the ecosystem services of value, and these linkages could vary in strength and in the scale of applicability. Understanding how forestland ownership change intersects with landscape ecology as land uses change is critical for evaluating policies that manage these changes. Identifying the ecological impacts avoided by managing the Bull Springs as a working forest can inform landscape-level planning to ensure that future development does not recreate these losses elsewhere in the region. Study of these components and linkages contributes to broader efforts to understand and manage the dynamics of social-ecological systems at multiple scales to make social wellbeing and ecological integrity resilient to future disturbances.
Current Position: Stewardship Manager, Greenbelt Land Trust, Corvallis, OR
Abstract: The Willamette River floodplain has been highly modified by urbanization, conversion of land to agriculture, construction of dams and revetments, and regulation of flow, all of which have reduced floodplain processes that provide valuable ecosystem services such as fish and wildlife habitat and flood storage. Efforts to protect and restore floodplains have increased in recent years as scientists and conservationists have began to recognize the importance of functioning floodplains to help recover native fish populations and mitigate flood effects. Restoration and protection of floodplain processes is linked to both the past land-uses that degraded the ecological systems and the current uses that sustain rural communities and farmers. This project assessed the opportunities to protect and restore floodplain forests and channel complexity in the floodplain of the Willamette River between Corvallis and Albany, Oregon. A geographic information system was used to analyze suitability for conservation in terms of floodplain forest, channel complexity, and human uses on a pixel by pixel basis across the floodplain. Suitability maps show the best locations to protect and restore floodplain processes while minimizing impacts to human uses in the floodplain. Most land highly suitable for conservation purposes is located near the current river channel. Some identified sites can be restored with little or no impact to private lands while others cross multiple ownerships and will be more challenging to restore. The goal of this project is to contribute to conservation planning and actions in the study area.
Current Position: Visitor Interpretation, Grand Canyon National Park, AZ