Back in business…

In case anyone was checking regularly, H2ONCoast has been on a hiatus of sorts while we moved to a new site and got the necessary tweaking out of the way. Apologies for the delay in posting much of anything after that process was completed.

Back to what I’m supposed to be doing here.  The real reason I was out of communication—besides the move—was that I was off to two meetings of note for water and community-oriented folks.

First, Eli Sagor at the University of Minnesota Extension Service and Karl Dalla Rosa of the US Forest Service put on a fabulous 2 day meeting in Chanhassen, MN on peer-to-peer networks for natural resources-oriented professionals. The 50+ person group was entirely focused on how to work with land owners and land stewardship. The group—working under the title of Woodland Owner Network—has a great social network site (of course) hosted here: woodlandownernetworks.ning.com.  The big questions we tried to collectively address were:

1. How do you get people to take good care of their land, water, wildlife, and vegetation? This is constant question amongst natural resources-focused professionals who deal with the fact that while much of the Western U.S. is public land and therefore governed by single landlords, the rest of the continent’s landscape is divided into smaller chunks spread among millions of owners. One way to look at this is to look at the process of forest fragmentation. Check out this map (below) by the U.S. Forest Service for a graphic demonstration just how much land is in private hands vs. public.

From Forests on the Edge (PNW-GTR-636 May 2005)

From Stein et al. 2005 "Forests on the Edge" (PNW-GTR-636)

2. How do you keep those people connected to the best possible information on how to steward these privately-owned resources? This expansion of new people and land uses (such as housing developments) into forested landscapes has huge implications for water quality protection, carbon sequestration, and quality of life in much of the United States.  Providing information on how to manage for these and other values is critical.

3. How do these folks learn from each other and keep that learning alive over time? Peer-to-peer networks have popped up in some places including the Applachian Moutains or Alabama. The Blue Ridge Forest Cooperative is one example: http://www.blueridgeforestcoop.com. Another can be found in the Alabama Treasure Forest Association: http://www.atfa.net.

As witnessed by these three questions alone, the group has an ambitious agenda ahead of them. One thing is certain, working with private land owners in a changing U.S. landscape is critical for a number of big reasons. I can only hope that peer-learning is one on-target method towards helping that process spread and be more effective.

The second meeting was a week long training on Green Infrastruture. I’ll write more on this in a subsequent post.

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