Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation

Understanding the Decision-Making Capacity of Oregon Coastal Watershed Councils

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  • In 1995, Oregon introduced the Oregon Plan for Salmon and Watersheds (formerly the Oregon Coho Salmon Recovery Initiative; OCRSI), a statewide cooperative effort between government and citizens. The Oregon Plan promotes voluntary and locally determined salmonid and watershed restoration initiatives. Watershed councils - groups comprised of citizens, federal and state agencies, local government, industry, advocacy groups, and local business - use cooperation, collaboration, and consensus to develop solutions unique to their salmon and watershed issues. Watershed councils bear much of the responsibility for improving Oregon salmon populations and watershed health. Because salmon and watershed rehabilitation takes place in a complex decision-making environment, watershed councils need to be effective in identifying, developing, implementing, and monitoring multiple rehabilitation projects, at times simultaneously. Watershed council success, in large part, depends on councils having the right human and nonhuman resources available to accomplish salmon and watershed rehabilitation goals. A recent study of 15 coastal Oregon watershed councils revealed interesting dynamics associated with watershed council structure and process differentiated by the physical size of the watershed, watershed landowner dynamics, and watershed population. Observations, interviews, surveys and content analysis reveal that the physical size of a watershed, which is related to landownership, land use, and urban versus rural population distribution dynamics, also has direct impacts on how the watershed council functions. Perhaps, very few watershed council members are aware of the potential limitations or advantages these factors present for individual watershed councils in relationship to salmon and watershed rehabilitation efforts. The authors also found significant differences between large and small watersheds on select factors including member affiliation, membership rules, decision-making authority, member relationships, and watershed council process. These factors show markedly different watershed council characteristics; this may result in equally different approaches to restoration and rehabilitation.
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