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Public Service Research Program

Photo: Truckee River

Truckee River

Getting Scientific and Technical Data and Analysis into Local and Regional Decision-Making

The Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project (SNEP) was an immense undertaking generating substantial ecological, social, and economic data on a large range of conditions in the Sierra Nevada. Strategies were developed as responses to problems identified through SNEP assessments. If followed, these strategies would lead towards sustainable management of the Sierra Nevada. One such strategy addressed the need for collaboration among agencies, private interests, and the public.

But a key question was "How to get scientific and technical data and analysis generated from SNEP into the local and regional decision making processes in the Sierra?" Former PSRP director, Dennis Pendleton, and Greg Greenwood, Science Advisor for the California Resources Agency, designed the project "Data and Analysis into Local and Regional Decision Making" in response to this need. The objective was to enhance the use of data and analysis generated by the Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project (SNEP) and other regional, university, state and federal programs within decision processes that affect the fate of the Sierra Nevada. A long term goal was to develop a continuing partnership between the University of California and Sierra Nevada communities to enhance land-use planning and resource management thereby making the resources and technological capacity of the University more accessible in Sierra planning initiatives.

The California Resources Agency contracted with PSRP in 1998 to 1) survey community "capacity" for effectively using natural resources data and information, and 2) develop working partnerships with three or fewer Sierra community initiatives to demonstrate the potential for improving land-use planning and management through more effective use of resource data and analytical and decision-support capacity. We coordinated closely with the Resources Agency, the UC Sierra Nevada Network for Research and Education (in the Division of Agricultural and Natural Resources), the Packard Foundation Conservation Program, and the U.S. Forest Service Sierra Conservation Framework to identify watershed groups that had sufficient capacity to effectively use natural resources data and information. Two Sierra watershed groups were identified and accepted assistance: the Truckee River Watershed Council and the Clavey River Ecosystem Project.

The challenge was to find mechanisms that could translate technical and scientific information to people on the ground and thereby support local decision making processes. The dedicated liaison strategy was designed to meet this challenge by providing these watershed groups in the Sierra Nevada with direct technical assistance - in the form of a knowledgeable person, assigned to a watershed group, who would work cooperatively with that watershed group over a period of time. The liaison's primary task was to enhance stakeholder capacity to access and use scientific and technical information in decision making processes related to ecosystem management. Assistance was to be 1) neutral and objective, providing the watershed groups with data and information, 2) educational, so that stakeholders would be able to utilize scientific information, and 3) responsive to the needs and priorities of the watershed groups.

Over the course of the project, two highly skilled liaisons provided the Truckee River Watershed Council and the Clavey River Ecosystem Project with scientific, technical, educational, and organizational assistance. An evaluation was conducted in 2002-03.

Project Challenge/Research Question: To what extent and how did the liaisons assist the watershed groups in local decision-making about their environmental resources? Did this provide a useful model to link university knowledge and local decision making?

Liaisons: Kerri Timmer, consultant, and Sky Harrison, UCD Staff

Evaluator: Culley Thomas, UCD Masters program (IAD)

Sites: Truckee River watershed, Truckee; Clavey River watershed, Stanislaus National Forest, Sonora

Partners: Truckee River Watershed Council and multiple partners; Clavey River Ecosystem Project and multiple partners; project advisory committee; UC Davis Information Center for the Environment (ICE); Community Development Graduate Group, and others.

Associated Projects/Research: Truckee River watershed assessment and activities; Clavey River watershed assessment and activities; Community Development 440 course project; Evaluation of the Sierra Watershed Assistance Program

Project Time Line: 1998 - 2003

Funding: The California Resources Agency provided funding, and PSRP managed the project.