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WWRC 86-05ff
Where Do We Go From Here: A Summary of The Wyoming Water and Streamside Zone Conference

After listening to the information that has been presented over the past two and a half days, and addressing the question "Where do we go from here", I think that I ought to preface my summary with a quote from Tom Watson, former chief executive officer at IBM. When Mr. Watson assumed the mantle of authority at IBM, he assembled his top staff and imparted to them his philosophy of corporate leadership. He told his staff, "From now on, our philosophy will be to do the right thing in the right way." It would seem to me that this would be valuable advice for us to heed as we determine how to manage riparian zones in Wyoming.

It has been clear from what we've heard here that we have a good idea of the right thing to do. Riparian zones have emerged as extremely important ecological resources that deserve our attention and the best management possible. This, however, is only half of Mr. Watson's formula. We still need to determine the right way to carry out this management. Based on what I have heard presented at this symposium, I would submit that we still do not know with certainty what is the right way to manage riparian zones.

Much research into the best methods to manage this resource is ongoing, and let me stress the term ongoing. We have heard reports on many of these research projects, and few, if any, have been concluded. How many times have you heard a researcher say during his presentation that "we don't know yet" or "we don't have enough information to make a firm decision" or "the science is still to young to tell us." Mike Parker told us that we must carefully distinguish between fact and hypothesis-this is doubly important when attempting to make policy decisions. The study of riparin zones and how they respond to man's influence is still embryonic, so in my opinion, it would be premature to attempt to institutionalize a rigid management scheme until the data base matures.

However, it is clear that pressure upon public land managers to "do something" about riaprian zones will not abate. The challenge then is to do the right thing in the right way. Several of the speakers have touched upon the necessity of approaching riparian management from an interdisciplinary standpoint Hillary Oden told us that "riparian management is a cross-cutting activity, affecting all disciplines." Paul Hansen related to us the steps that Montana is taking to address riparian zone management on a interdisciplinary basis with a strong grass roots orientation. This would appear to be a prudent direction to take, once it becomes feasible lo develop a riparian policy.

Given the many and divergent constituencies who have an interest in the issue, a cooperative effort to develop a policy is a must I think that it is equally important that policy development and decision making be as localized as possible. The Symposium has bought out that the best management practices for riparian zones in intermountain basins are quite different from those for the desert southwest. This fact argues strongly for a policy that is sensitive to differing conditions in different locations.

Stewardship programs, coordinated resource management programs and cooperative management agreements are all resource management models that have been discussed. Each holds promise as a tool for addressing riparian area issues at the grass roots level and thieving the consensus necessary for sound management decisions. This approach is especially important when considering that riparian zones are so important to such a large and diverse cross section of interested parties.

In summary, I would suggest that another conference such as this one be held a year or so from now, when more of the research projects discussed here have been completed. At that point, we should have a much more definitive data base from which to answer the question, "WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE."

In the meantime, it is not too early to begin to build the communications and partnerships that will be necessary to translate good information into good management. All of the stakeholders in the issue need to link up now to openly discuss what their concerns and expectations are. Once the science has matured to a point that we know what we want to do about the resource, then we will have some assurance that we are doing the right thing in the right way.

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