Last month, Lauren and I attended the International Symposium on Society and Natural Resource Management (ISSRM) in Utah, where we presented preliminary findings from our research with the California Department of Conservation (DOC) on the Statewide Watershed Program. ISSRM is an annual gathering of professionals and students working at the intersection of social science and natural resource issues—our kind of place— and exchanging some of the latest research on a variety of topics like resource management, environmental justice, collaboration and stakeholder processes, and collaborative governance.
Over two days, we attended 25 presentations, many of which excitingly aligned with concepts in our research, illuminated novel approaches to social science research in the natural resource management world, and represented fantastic learning opportunities for our social science team. The most relevant presentations we attended explored topics of homelessness and water quality on urban river parkways, the use of low impact development (LID), best management practices to address water supply issues, and effective ways to engage stakeholders to advance landscape-scale restoration.
Our presentation of the CalFed Statewide Watershed Program was grouped into the water policy evaluation session which also covered topics relating to drought policy in major U.S. cities, public perceptions to water resilience, water rights and indigenous sovereignty, and collaborative governance and rural water management in Australian water policy. Attendees were particularly interested in themes of landscape-scale restoration that echoed through the preliminary findings we shared. As our research suggests, the state watershed coordinator program has uniquely contributed to 1) the development of strong multi-stakeholder networks, 2) improved facilitation and conflict resolution around setting collective restoration and conservation goals, 3) a holistic approach resulting in multi-beneficial solutions, 4) restoration across all land jurisdictions and decreased land ownership challenges, and 5) leveraged funds amounting to over seven times the state’s invested amount.
We are excited to have had the opportunity to participate in ISSRM, advancing our mission to learn from past activities, share lessons learned, and adapt practices to improve future initiatives. Stay tuned as we further develop our research findings and edge closer toward sharing a final report!
Written by: Kaily Bourg