Grantee Research Project Results
Assessment of Critical Sociocultural and Ecological Variables for Adaptive Watershed ManagementEPA Grant Number: U915009
Title: Assessment of Critical Sociocultural and Ecological Variables for Adaptive Watershed Management
Investigators: Habron, Geoffrey B.
Institution: Oregon State University
EPA Project Officer: Lee, Sonja
Project Period: January 1, 1996 through January 1, 1999
Project Amount: $102,000
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (1996) RFA Text | Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Ecological Indicators/Assessment/Restoration , Fellowship - Ecology
The objectives of this research project are to: (1) Identify current landowner participation in watershed conservation projects; (2) Assess the spatial distribution of watershed projects; (3) Determine characteristics of participating and non-participating landowners; and (4) Determine the sociocultural, ecological, and geographic constraints to adaptive watershed management.
Open-ended interviews with 18 agricultural landowners in the spring of 1997 led to the development of a mail survey. The survey included the Calapooya, Deer Creek, and Myrtle Creek watersheds within the Umpqua Basin near Roseburg, southwestern Oregon. The survey went was distributed to all agricultural landowners in the three watersheds in the Spring of 1998. Surveys were returned by 237 landowners (53% percent). During 1997-1998, participant- observation was used to document the role of the Umpqua Basin Watershed Council in fostering cooperative and adaptive approaches to watershed conservation. Overall findings show that farming and ranching engender a strong symbolic meaning focused on landowner independence, the importance of private property rights, aversion toward government interference, and a belief in environmental resilience. These four themes interact to structure landowners' beliefs toward and participation in conservation. The most common conservation practices are off-stream livestock water developments and rotational grazing. Logistic regression reveals that the key factors in adoption of conservation practices varied according to the type of conservation practice. However, information-seeking behavior such as sharing management decisions with a spouse is the most consistent explanatory variable. Spatial analysis using geographic information systems suggests that a suite of conservation practices is needed to achieve a conservation network of large, connected patches throughout the watersheds. The watershed council can provide a key role by reducing bureaucracy, fostering productive discussion and understanding among stakeholders, and providing financial, technical and coordination support. The key finding is that the success of watershed conservation programs depends on their ability to match ecological and social suitability. Such a match can be achieved by following an adaptive, community-based approach to watershed conservation. The main recommendation is for agencies to allow landowners the flexibility to use a diverse set of conservation practices to achieve desired ecological outcomes instead of imposing regulations or specific practices.