Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar identified the Escalante River Watershed Partnership as one of America’s Great Outdoors Rivers on May 22, 2012. One project per state will be identified to highlight public-private collaborations to conserve and restore key rivers across the nation.
Michele Straube, Director of the Stegner Center’s new Environmental Dispute Resolution Program has been the facilitator for the Escalante River Watershed Partnership virtually since its inception in June 2009. The partnership, originally conceived by the National Park Service, BLM/Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and The Nature Conservancy, now has over 15 signatory members and an equal number of informal partners.
The Partnership was chosen by Salazar due to the diversity of its participants (including multiple government entities at the federal, state and local levels, environmental organizations, and private landowners), as well as the partnership’s significant on-the-ground successes. Over 800 acres of Russian olive were removed from private and public land in 2011 along the Escalante River and its tributaries. Beaver are being reintroduced into the watershed to improve water retention, and stream restoration efforts are underway to protect and expand native trout populations. The group has developed a ten-year action plan to maintain and restore watershed health.
“Keeping the many different stakeholders working together is a little like herding cats,” Ms. Straube said of her work with the Escalante River Watershed Partnership, “but Secretary Salazar’s recognition of the group’s efforts as a model for successful collaboration underscores the value of collaborative process design, facilitation and mediation. Of course, it helps to have awesome partners to work with,” she added.