Driving Local Governments to Watershed Governance
42 Environmental Law 157 (2012)
44 Pages Posted: 13 Sep 2011 Last revised: 14 Sep 2013
Date Written: September 12, 2011
This article examines two recent developments in watershed protection. First, the growth of ecosystem services research has reframed the manner in which value accrues in natural resources. At the intersection of economics and ecology, the study of ecosystem services has supported the attribution of economic value to ecosystem processes. Second, local governments are participating quite intentionally in watershed management by identifying with particular watersheds, particular watershed features, and particular watershed functions, in ways that other entities lack the institutional capacity to do. These developments are important for watershed protection in ways not previously seen: even if they leave political boundaries intact, when local governments protect watershed functionality, they are acting to preserve natural capital, and natural capital is geographically situated in ways that defy the sanctity of political boundaries.
This article addresses the importance of driving local governments to watershed planning and management by introducing the perspective of ecosystem and watershed services. Part II of this article discusses the complexity of functional watersheds and identifies watershed features that can be categorized in ecosystem services terms as the provisioning, regulating, cultural, and supporting services. By discussing watershed services, this part identifies the valuable ecosystem services in watersheds and the objectives of watershed investments. Part II furthermore explores the nature of watershed planning in the context of existing regulatory, property, and sovereignty ownership schemes for the purpose of identifying the level at which local governments are held to account for watershed investments. This part explores the notion that local governments are so grounded relative to watersheds that the task of identifying and satisfying local needs and parochial perspectives – often thought to impede sound environmental planning – should be considered a primary driver in a collaborative and developing process. Part III of this article discusses the manner in which the ecosystem services perspective illuminates particular local governance needs.
Keywords: watershed, government, ecosystem, natural resources
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