OOS 1-3 - Engaging communities in effective decision-making for more sustainable water resources and ecosystem management

Monday, August 8, 2011: 2:10 PM
16B, Austin Convention Center
Laura J. Stroup, Department of Geography, Texas State University, San Marcos, San Marcos, TX and Shae Luther, Texas State University

Implementing effective environmental management programs in the U.S., today, includes not only the consideration of stakeholder input, but must also ensure effective buy-in and participation by stakeholders for successful projects.  However, most environmental professionals are not trained in effective communication to diverse audiences nor are they prepared for the varied viewpoints and goals that are mandated through stakeholder participation as part of modern ecosystem management.  This is particularly true when determining the future allocation of increasingly stressed water resources in diverse ecosystem contexts around the country.  Academic research on the incorporation of “resilience” concepts into ecosystem sustainability initiatives offers a promising perspective through which true social-ecological sustainability, and program sustainability, can be collectively envisioned.  But, the question then remains, “What questions, skills, and perspectives are necessary for modern environmental professionals to employ to engage communities in order to make the practice of ecosystem management more fair, balanced, and effective in the longer term?”


Through experience conducting research on a wide variety of ecosystem management questions, particularly those involving conflicts over water resources, best practices for better integrating community perspectives into environmental management are presented.  I draw from cases, including the Floirida Everglades Restoration Adaptive Management Program formulation, Texas water supply utilities' planning for population growth and climate change, and Pennsylvania community members’ protest of shale gas development.  Target ecosystems’ stakeholders may be the sole and indeed an under-utilized source of integral information and resources that scientists and managers need to draw from to sucessfully design/complete related projects and programs.  In the modern environmental management landscape, not effectively incorporating stakeholder input into ecosystem management is a mistake no environmental professional or ecosystem can afford.

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