95th ESA Annual Meeting (August 1 -- 6, 2010)

OOS 36-5 - The value of just showing up: How scientists can inform policy through long-term, grass roots participation with local watershed groups

Wednesday, August 4, 2010: 2:50 PM
401-402, David L Lawrence Convention Center
Rebecca Flitcroft, Pacific Northwest Research Station, US Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Corvallis, OR

Introducing science into policy for watershed management can be a contentious process. However, scientists can work to build science-based policy through education and collaboration with landowners and stakeholders from the ground up. Through work with a non-profit watershed council in Oregon, scientists have contributed to making ecology the guiding principle in an organically evolving process that builds trust that has translated into ecological stewardship, leadership, and watershed restoration. Rather than keeping scientists and science out of reach and unapproachable, the process of watershed management engaged in by the Long Tom Watershed Council has made scientists and laypersons equal participants in learning and education. The reciprocal relationship offers laypersons, who might have been suspicious of science, the opportunity to engage directly with scientists, and learn about their own property. By taking science to the people, scientists are able to engage landowners with issues of direct relevance to them.  


The result of the collaboration between scientists and watershed residents has been an engaged public more ready, willing, and prepared to modify behavior, engage in joint ventures, and commit to long term restoration and protection of the watershed in which they live. This iterative, time consuming process offers scientists the chance to educate and inform policy decisions. However, patience, open-mindedness, consistency, and commitment are needed by landowners and scientists alike for such a joint enterprise to result in ecologically informed practice.