"Bottom-Up" Versus "Top-Down" Approaches to River Basin Management: The Role of Governance, Scale, and Citizen Involvement in the Attempt To Incorporate Diverse Ecological and Social Interests

EPA Grant Number: U915755
Title: "Bottom-Up" Versus "Top-Down" Approaches to River Basin Management: The Role of Governance, Scale, and Citizen Involvement in the Attempt To Incorporate Diverse Ecological and Social Interests
Investigators: Vogel, Eve
Institution: University of Oregon
EPA Project Officer: Michaud, Jayne
Project Period:    
Project Amount: $93,249
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2000) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Fellowship - Geography , Academic Fellowships , Ecological Indicators/Assessment/Restoration


The objective of this research project is to investigate how the scale of governance, its regulatory direction and power, and its level of direct citizen involvement, affects the realization of ecological and social goals. I will investigate these questions at a relatively large spatial scale, whole-river basins, and will focus especially on whether these two governance systems successfully incorporate ecological functions and stakeholders that have been underrepresented in river basin management. In the United States, both "top-down" and "bottom-up" watershed planning and management efforts attempt to address large-scale ecological processes and concerns and incorporate diverse "stakeholder" in decisionmaking. Relatively "top-down" ecological restoration efforts are led by federal agencies and federal laws, and claim the advantage of impartiality, broad thinking, and consistency; while relatively "bottom-up" systems are led by states and nongovernmental organizations, often organized around watershed councils, and claim the advantage of local knowledge, commitment, and creativity.


I will focus my primary case study on the Pacific Northwest's Columbia Basin, where watershed councils are particularly active and widespread, and where watershed conservation efforts are driven particularly by the decline of salmon, anadromous species whose widespread migration requires an unprecedented coordination of ecologically, socially, and geographically diverse interests. I will analyze: (1) the multifederal agency-led yet very public attempt to restore Snake River salmon by addressing habitat issues in the Snake Rive Basin; (2) the state and tribe-led Fish and Wildlife Program of the Columbia Basin's Northwest Power Planning Council; and (3) the attempt of watershed councils throughout the basin to assess and protect local watershed resources. If time permits, I will follow up this indepth Columbia case study with more abbreviated studies of large river basins in other countries where salmon are or have been important. Both the Columbia Basin and the international case studies will provide a comparative look at the role of governance structure, regulatory direction and power, and direct citizen involvement in mediating the ability of watershed management to incorporate diverse ecological and social interests. To assess the broader ecological context and effects of watershed management, I will draw on the growing methodologies of conservation biology to contextualize the basins' ecological diversity and integrity, and to assess the affects on these of different management systems. To assess social contexts and consequences of management, I will employ both quantitative and qualitative analyses, potentially including focus group interviews to identify key issues, reviews of social history, mapping demographic profiles, content analysis of public meeting transcripts, and key informant interviews.

Supplemental Keywords:

fellowship, river basin management, Pacific Northwest, watershed management, decision making, stakeholders, citizen involvement, watershed conservation management., RFA, Scientific Discipline, Economic, Social, & Behavioral Science Research Program, decision-making, Social Science, Economics & Decision Making, stakeholder involvement, coalition formation, collaborative decision making, policy making, community involvement, environmental decision making, decision making, advocacy coalition framework, community based environmental planning, environmental policy

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2000
  • 2001
  • 2002
  • Final