Consequently, the criteria for effective management and policy decisions are ambiguous.
This chapter discusses some important considerations regarding the integration of science, policy, and public participation in watershed management. It considers the role of science and its relation to policy, as well as stakeholder involvement. Watershed planning and management is increasingly collaborative, raising questions about the nature of democratic decisionmaking, equity among stakeholders, and the need for the involvement of an informed public. This chapter considers these broad issues, presents six critical points that should be considered in the conduct of watershed planning, and reviews the planning procedures of six federal agencies in terms of these critical points.
Improving the interface between science and policy and between scientists and politicians remains one of the major challenges to watershed management. It is difficult enough to manage land and water resources at small spatial and short temporal scales, but to formulate management plans for the larger, longer scales often requires complex systems of governance and advanced science. It is common to hear scientists complaining that their voices are being ignored by policymakers.
Watersheds have taken on increasing importance in establishing a context for federal, state, and local policy. Some objectives are directly related to water, including water supply management, flood control, water quality protection, sediment control, fisheries conservation, navigation, and hydroelectric generation. Others are related but less focused on water, including maintenance of biological diversity, wildlife management, and general environmental preservation. Broader goals like recreation and economic development are also sometimes cast as watershed issues.
Which of these problems can be effectively addressed at the watershed level? Answering this question leads to an important first step in the planning process: defining the problem and setting clear objectives. Science plays an important role at this stage of the planning. The recent National Academy of Sciences report, Understanding Risk (Stem and Fineberg, 1996), provides a cogent summary of the challenge involved in integrating science into environmental management. First, the planning process must get the science right:
The underlying analysis meets high scientific standards in terms of measurement, analytic methods, data bases used, plausibility of assumptions, and respectfulness of both the magnitude and the character of uncertainty, taking into consideration limitations that may have been placed on the analysis because of the level of effort judged appropriate for informing the decision.