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WWRC 97-05a
Assesment of Colaborative Watershed Management Approaches Used in the United States for Appicability in Wyoming


Extensive natural resource exploitation in the Unites States since the 1800's has prompted continuous evolution of resource management agencies to conserve and administer natural resources under a multiple-use management strategy (Frentz et al. 1995). In 1949, Aldo Leopold described man's need to limit landscape modification to protect overall ecosystem quality, terming it the "land ethic." Even with foresight such as Leopold's, land use has continued to be a primary cause of changes to stream fishery resources (Meehan 1991).

Recently, fisheries managers have begun to use watershed boundaries to delineate basic management units (Taylor et al. 1995). Both state and federal agencies, as well as industry, have begun adopting the watershed as the principle management unit for water and fisheries resources (Perciasepe 1994). Watershed-scale management considers the effects from land use practices on components of the landscape and its inhabitants. Cumulative impacts upon a watershed's integrity or function caused by management decisions can be reduced by approaching upland and aquatic management decisions at a watershed scale. The necessity for watershed-scale management of fisheries is becoming apparent to agencies and managers responsible for these resources, thus raising the question of how to accomplish management at the watershed scale, over which individual management agencies may have little or no authority?

A process for collaborative watershed management can address this concern by enabling involvement of interested stakeholders to reduce individual responsibilities, promote cooperation, and improve a project's acceptance and success. Thus, agencies designated to manage fisheries resources can improve their management success through collaboration. However, the components for a collaborative process for watershed-scale management have not been fully developed and integrated into fisheries management.

Currently, Wyoming's resource managers do not have a defined approach to collaborative watershed-scale management, due partially to the difficulty of bringing together individual stakeholders within a watershed. Yet, entire watersheds are rarely owned or managed by a single government entity or private individual. Instead, they are managed by several stakeholders (private and public) each with potentially different, and sometimes conflicting, objectives (Cornett 1994, Jamal and Getz 1995). Managing fisheries resources to the satisfaction of all stakeholders within a watershed requires a process that ensures participation by each party (Gunn 1988, Inskeep 1991). The process of collaborating to manage resources at a watershed scale is termed "collaborative watershed management" (CWM). The CWM process promotes the involvement of stakeholders and increases the likelihood of success by creating participant ownership in the process and products. Through the involvement and interaction of all stakeholders, the process becomes a collaborative process for the management of fisheries resources at the watershed scale.

Collaboration is defined by Gray (1985) as "the pooling of appreciations and/or resources.-.by two or more stakeholders to solve a set of problems which neither can solve individually." The optimal CWM process includes organizations and agencies considered to be outside of traditional fisheries management (e.g. agriculture, forestry, water resources, environmental quality or recreation) and spreads responsibilities and ownership of the management process to all involved stakeholders (Jamal and Getz 1995). A CWM process improves the likelihood of public acceptance of management decisions, while reducing responsibilities and expenses for single agencies or groups. The importance of public participation throughout the process is imperative, and includes developing issues and identifying direction (Thompson 1993). Historically, public involvement in the fishery resource management process generally meant simply informing stakeholders of activities and decisions that had been made by professional resource managers.

Our research evaluates watershed-scale management processes being used by agencies throughout the United States to identify the array of perspectives and ideas that constitute watershed-scale management today. The necessary components of a collaborative process defined by social collaboration theory can be used to describe and develop a CWM process for application by the Fish Division of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

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