- In Washington State, regional leaders have acknowledged the intrinsic value of nature and are striving to provide equal consideration to both human and nonhuman nature in the quest to restore the Puget Sound. But watershed-based committees supporting this work have faced challenges to effectively consider human wellbeing (HWB) in their decision-making without a formal process for quantifying and integrating HWB-related elements.
In the field of natural resources, there has been an increasing interest in the use of social sustainability indicators and decision support tools to increase transparency and accountability in decision-making, elevate the consideration of underrepresented components in planning, and better connect with partners. Beginning in 2017, Oregon State University and the Puget Sound Partnership engaged Local Integrating Organizations (LIOs) to develop tools, including decision support systems (DSS), to facilitate the integration of social and environmental science for the purposes of prioritizing local recovery actions.
This report compares participating and non-participating LIOs to draw insights into how the HWB integration project has or has not impacted the consideration of HWB components in local watershed group decision-making processes. How LIO committee member attitudes and opinions about the governance structures and decision-making changed through the process of piloting (or not) a decision support tool is also evaluated.
Analysis of interview data and direct participation in the HWB integration project, shows that increased attention is being given to the human dimensions of Puget Sound recovery across the LIOs, including those that participated in the HWB integration project and those that did not. There is evidence that the implementation of a decision support tool resulted in members having an increased perception of transparency in their planning processes and trust among fellow LIO members. It also highlighted specific shortcomings around representation and increased members’ perceptions that not all the right people are being included in their decision-making.
Based on participant-observation of a decision support tool pilot, there is evidence to confirm that engaging in the HWB integration project and implementing the tool did increase the LIO’s consideration of human dimensions throughout the duration of the project and will likely have lasting positive impacts going forward.