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Virtual Connections Building Towards Real World Collaborative Watershed Management in the San Juan Basin; Alyssa Richmond

Resource Category: 
2021 Conference
 
 
Virtual Connections Building Towards Real World Collaborative Watershed Management in the San Juan Basin
Alyssa Richmond1
1San Juan Watershed Group, Aztec, NM, USA; alyssa.richmond@sanjuanswcd.com
 
The San Juan Watershed Group (SJWG) completed the Lower Animas Watershed Based Plan (LAWBP) in 2016. Over the past four years, the group and its partners have begun implementing projects outlined in the plan to improve water quality and watershed health. Through the culmination of our capacity building and lessons learned from project management and outreach, the SJWG is now planning to expand our work through a restoration plan along the San Juan River and its major tributaries between Navajo Lake State Park and Shiprock, New Mexico.
One of the most instrumental lessons learned from the LAWBP is that waiting to establish community connections and build trust until the end of the planning process slowed the anticipated momentum on conducting water quality improvement projects.  Conducting outreach early and consistently throughout the planning process correlates to more impactful implementation of on the ground projects that are both valued by the community and lead to non-point source pollution reductions. The SJWG have adapted their strategy to begin the watershed planning process early via thorough Geographic Information System (GIS) analysis and stakeholder outreach, which is now being conducted through a virtual ArcGIS Online mapping format. This ensures public safety during COVID-19 and streamlines collection of community needs and values. Essentially a virtual method to posted notes on a large printed out map, this live, interactive, and transparent mapping process ensures community members lead the discussion on known areas of concern and identifying categories of watershed restoration methods. From this accumulative input, the SJWG, government agencies, tribal entities, municipalities, nonprofits, local work groups, and the general public can prioritize and implement these restoration methods together to benefit water quality and watershed health. One significant example from this effort is the hosting of a Russian Olive Community Forum as requested by the Navajo community, which bridged relationships with the Bureau of Indian Affairs to partner in an inventory of Russian Olive throughout District 12 of the Navajo Nation. In keeping an open mind to community concerns, even more doors are kept open to nurture relationships that would not have occurred otherwise.  
 
 
 

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