One key challenge contributing to large-scale ecological impairments facing the Upper Klamath Basin is the lack of voluntary landowner conservation program enrollment. Although a wide variety of conservation program opportunities are locally available through federal, state agencies, and environmental NGOs, they are underutilized, and therefore are not having the intended impact on ecological improvements.
Limited landowner understanding, awareness, and capacity to navigate conservation programs, deficiencies within existing programs and their associated staff capacity, and general fear as the region grapples with persistent drought have all contributed to low conservation program enrollment Basin-wide. One Upper Basin landowner summed up one of the most frequently cited reasons why landowners don’t participate, “I had no idea about that program, and besides, I don’t have the time to figure it out.”
So how do we overcome these challenges and get more landowners to take advantage of available conservation programs, to realize the associated ecological benefits? Increased communication and collaboration between existing agency and organization staff, and between staff and landowners, would help strengthen coordination, stack program opportunities, and increase program awareness. Streamlining and customizing programs to suit specific landowner needs would greatly simplify the navigation and application process. Modifying existing program parameters to be more accessible would also help make them more appealing to landowners.
All of these ideas require additional capacity, either internally within local agencies and organizations, or externally through intermediary support, to make their program offerings more available to Basin landowners. Hiring additional staff at local agencies and organizations would help expand outreach and program enrollment capacity, as well as improve overall programmatic effectiveness. Engaging intermediary organizations and contractors would help enhance existing capacity by facilitating increased program outreach, education, and enrollment.
Hopefully, some of the funding coming into the Basin can be directed towards expanding capacity to engage landowners in existing conservation programs, and modify those programs that have not been as effective, so that we can start to realize more large-scale voluntary conservation activity, and the associated ecological benefits.
To learn more about restoration opportunities in the Basin, visit these webpages:
- Intermountain West Joint Venture: iwjv.org
- Klamath Lake Land Trust: klamathlakelandtrust.org
- Klamath Watershed Partnership: klamathpartnership.org
- NRCS/SWCD: nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/or/programs nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detail/or/contact/local/?cid=nrcs142p2_046128
- Sustainable Northwest: sustainablenorthwest.org/klamath-basin
- Trout Unlimited: facebook.com/KlamathTU
- USFWS Partners Program: fws.gov/office/klamath-falls-fish-and-wildlife