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Proposal for a Model State Watershed Management Act

20 Pages Posted: 19 Sep 2003 Last revised: 14 Sep 2013

J. B. Ruhl

Vanderbilt University - Law School

Christopher Lant

Southern Illinois University at Carbondale - Department of Geography

Tim Loftus

Heidelberg College Water Quality Laboratory

Steven Kraft

Southern Illinois University at Carbondale - Agribusiness Economics

Jane Adams

Southern Illinois University at Carbondale - Anthropology Department

Leslie A. Duram

Southern Illinois University at Carbondale - Geography Department

Abstract

During the Montana Constitutional Convention of 1889, John Wesley Powell, envisioning a landscape of watershed commonwealths, proposed that Montana adopt watersheds as the boundaries of its counties. The idea did not catch on. Over time, the power of local governments to regulate land use has grown immensely, but the misfit between their political boundaries and environmental policy problem sheds has persisted. As our understanding of ecosystem dynamics improves, however, natural resources management policy is gravitating, once again, to the watershed as an appropriate unit of governance. Many federal and state natural resource management initiatives have come on line in the past five years using watersheds as their primary focus. Yet, these new programs lack coherence and invest inadequate authority in watershed-based units of government.

Representing perspectives from law, geography, economics, and anthropology, the authors propose the framework for a model state watershed management law. They conclude that the federal government is ill-equipped to take on the role of comprehensive watershed management czar as it has for pollution control and other environmental programs. Yet, local governments, even if organized around watershed boundaries, are unlikely to provide the platform for effective policy implementation. Rather, the authors propose a multi-tiered governance system linking state, regional, and local units of government through careful distribution of planning responsibilities and policy implementation authorities. Although for many states this framework would introduce a new layer of governance, its superior correspondence to the inescapable realities of ecosystem dynamics makes it worth serious consideration.

Suggested Citation

Ruhl, J. B. and Lant, Christopher and Loftus, Tim and Kraft, Steven and Adams, Jane and Duram, Leslie A., Proposal for a Model State Watershed Management Act. Environmental Law, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=438701 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.438701

J. B. Ruhl (Contact Author)

Vanderbilt University - Law School ( email )

131 21st Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37203-1181
United States

Christopher Lant

Southern Illinois University at Carbondale - Department of Geography ( email )

Rehn Hall - Mail Code 4626
Carbondale, IL 62901-4515
United States
618-536-6020 (Phone)

Tim Loftus

Heidelberg College Water Quality Laboratory ( email )

Tiffin, OH 44883-2462
United States

Steven Kraft

Southern Illinois University at Carbondale - Agribusiness Economics ( email )

Carbondale, IL 62901-4515
United States
618-453-2421 (Phone)

Jane H Adams

Southern Illinois University at Carbondale - Anthropology Department ( email )

Rehn Hall - Mail Code 4626
Carbondale, IL 62901-4515
United States
618-453-5019 (Phone)

Leslie Aileen Duram

Southern Illinois University at Carbondale - Geography Department ( email )

Rehn Hall - Mail Code 4626
Carbondale, IL 62901-4515
United States
618-453-6084 (Phone)

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