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Driving Local Governments to Watershed Governance

Keith H. Hirokawa

Albany Law School

September 12, 2011

42 Environmental Law 157 (2012)
Albany Law School Research Paper No. 23 of 2011-2012

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.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 44

Keywords: watershed, government, ecosystem, natural resources

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Date posted: September 13, 2011 ; Last revised: September 14, 2013

Suggested Citation

Hirokawa, Keith H., Driving Local Governments to Watershed Governance (September 12, 2011). 42 Environmental Law 157 (2012); Albany Law School Research Paper No. 23 of 2011-2012. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1926393 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1926393

Contact Information

Keith H. Hirokawa (Contact Author)
Albany Law School ( email )
80 New Scotland Avenue
Albany, NY 12208
United States

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