Embracing Watershed Politics

Embracing Watershed Politics

Edella Schlager
William Blomquist
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    Embracing Watershed Politics
    Book Description:

    As Americans try to better manage and protect the natural resources of our watersheds, is politics getting in the way? Why does watershed management end up being so political? In Embracing Watershed Politics, political scientists Edella Schlager and William Blomquist provide timely illustrations and thought-provoking explanations of why political considerations are essential, unavoidable, and in some ways even desirable elements of decision making about water and watersheds. With decades of combined study of water management in the United States, they focus on the many contending interests and communities found in America's watersheds, the fundamental dimensions of decision making, and the impacts of science, complexity, and uncertainty on watershed management. Enriched by case studies of the organizations and decision making processes in several major U.S. watersheds (the Delaware River Basin, San Gabriel River, Platte River, and the Columbia River Basin), Embracing Watershed Politics presents a reasoned explanation of why there are so few watershed-scale integrated management agencies and how the more diverse multi-organizational arrangements found in the vast majorities of watersheds work. Although the presence of multiple organizations representing a multitude of communities of interest complicates watershed management, these institutional arrangements can-under certain conditions-suit the complexity and uncertainty associated with watershed management in the twenty-first century.

    eISBN: 978-0-87081-975-9
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-xvi)
  4. 1 Complex Landscapes: WATERSHEDS AND INSTITUTIONS
    (pp. 1-26)

    Every watershed has a physical landscape—a complex terrain of landforms, water resources, vegetation, animals and their habitats, human beings and the structures they have built. Every watershed has an institutional landscape, too—a complex but largely invisible terrain of rules and organizations that govern and affect human choices about the making of decisions, the use of resources, and the relationships of people to nature and one another. This book considers the institutional landscapes of watersheds, not in isolation from the physical world but in connection to it, recognizing that watersheds have both physical and institutional landscapes.

    Institutions are political—...

  5. 2 Watersheds, Politics, and Institutions: PAST AND PRESENT ASSESSMENTS
    (pp. 27-54)

    The research and policy literature on watershed management expanded rapidly from the late 1980s to the present, as has the number of initiatives undertaken in the United States to create watershed-based efforts at resource management. The concept has shown great appeal among academics and policy makers (Walther 1987, 439; Milon, Kiker, and Lee 1998, 37) and has spawned considerable activity (Kraft et al. 1999; Lubell et al. 2002).¹ It is not an exaggeration to characterize this combination of publications and actions as a “watershed movement.” The “movement” is not so much a formally organized effort as a burgeoning literature of...

  6. 3 The Essentials of Watershed Politics: BOUNDARIES, DECISION MAKING, AND ACCOUNTABILITY
    (pp. 55-88)

    The political choices that people confront in governing watersheds include deciding how to structure the governing institutions and organizations, who will participate in making decisions, how decisions will be made, and how decision makers will be held accountable. Several watershed writers accept politics as a given but express a weariness with existing political choices and a hope or desire for a different type of politics—a politics that is more reflective, collaborative, and cooperative; a politics that unfolds outside of present governments and dominant political institutions. Even savvy and experienced scholars such as Gregg and colleagues (1998, 26) convey such...

  7. 4 Imaginary Watersheds and Political Realities
    (pp. 89-122)

    As discussed in Chapter 2, for more than a century, the U.S. government, at various times, has attempted to organize large-scale river basin entities to coordinate and manage the activities of federal and state agencies. Many of these efforts, especially of a national scope, such as the Title II river basin commissions, have failed for a variety of political reasons—turf wars among federal agencies, conflicts between states and federal agencies over control of commissions, demands by local governments and citizens for greater roles in planning and decision making, and conflicts over the proper role of the federal government in...

  8. 5 Multiple Goals, Communities, and Organizations: A WATERSHED POLITICAL ECONOMY
    (pp. 123-150)

    As we have mentioned in previous chapters, the popularity of watershed management has grown as other values and goals have emerged alongside more traditional ones, such as water supply development and flood control. In this chapter, we draw together those goals and values for a closer look and focus on some organizational issues associated with the effort to pursue multiple goals and values simultaneously.

    Managing a watershed conveys an incorporation of several considerations, including those shown in Box 5.1 and described below. The relative significance of each will vary according to location characteristics and residents’ values.

    Water supply reliability involves...

  9. 6 Federalism and Watershed Governance
    (pp. 151-182)

    As described in Chapter 1, many natural scientists and policy analysts accept that most natural systems, such as watersheds, are complex adaptive systems. These systems do not need to be simplified and managed for one or two values, their complexity is to be recognized, protected, and respected. The same thinking, however, has not pervaded the social sciences concerning watershed governance. Political complexity is viewed as a barrier to the sustainable use of natural systems and something to be corrected. As illustrated in Chapter 2, policy reforms are sought that simplify, integrate, and centralize so the externalities, spillover effects, commons dilemmas,...

  10. 7 A Rational Embrace?
    (pp. 183-196)

    In the preceding chapters, we have paired analytical discussions of political topics in watershed management with case studies of the institutions that currently exist in certain locations in the United States. We begin this closing chapter with a consideration of those case studies as a group—what their similarities and differences reveal and how those lessons relate to the broader themes of the overall book, beyond the connections that were drawn in the particular chapters in which the cases appeared.

    The cases do not represent “successes” and “failures” nor were they chosen for that purpose. It is not our intention...

  11. References
    (pp. 197-212)
  12. Index
    (pp. 213-220)