OSU This Week: Volume 42, Number 24, April 17, 2003

Monroe wetlands provide lessons for international water experts

A series of wetlands on a ranch near Monroe provided the backdrop for lessons in private-public environmental partnerships earlier this week for a group of international river basin experts.

The field trip was part of a workshop titled "Stakeholder Participation in International River Basins: Models, Successes, and Failures." The workshop was sponsored by Oregon State University and the Pacific Institute through a grant from the Carnegie Corporation.

The Universities Partnership for Transboundary Waters, an organization based out of OSU, hosted the workshop along with the Department of Geosciences. The organization is an international consortium of universities from five continents that are brought together to raise awareness and build institutional capacity to address water conflicts at various scales.

The workshop featured commission representatives from the countries sharing the Lempa and San Juan rivers in Latin America (Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras, and El Salvador) The Okavango River in southern Africa (Botswana, Namibia, and Angola) and different basins along the U.S.-Mexican border. OSU faculty from the departments of Communication, Anthropology, Bioresource Engineering, Sociology, and Geosciences participated as did specialists from United Nations University and the University of Zimbabwe.

On Monday, participants visited a wetlands restoration project in the Muddy Creek watershed. The international visitors had a chance to learn about Oregonian initiatives to involve landowners in state and federal environmental and water quality mandates. The coordinator for the local Mary's River Watershed Council talked about the Oregon Plan for Salmon and watersheds and the landowners discussed their specific projects.

Laurie Halsey, one of the landowners, said she was honored to be part of the workshop. "It's exciting to think that our project may play a small role in a better understanding of international environmental issues," she said.

Following the field trip, participants discussed how to build positive relationships across international borders to improve the management of shared water courses. They designed their own "personal action plans" containing a list of important agencies, organizations, and individuals to involve and invite to their regional workshops, as well as their goals for incorporating stakeholder processes within the water basins in which they are involved.

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