Evaluating Participatory Watershed Management: A Case Study of the Albemarle Pamlico National Estuary Program
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Participatory approaches to watershed management have been touted as more effective than traditional command-and-control approaches, yet evaluations of their success have been limited. This master’s project develops a framework for participatory watershed management program evaluation in terms of process and outcomes, with particular attention to social capital outcomes. I then apply the framework in a case study evaluating the Albemarle Pamlico National Estuary Program (APNEP) to discern program strengths, challenges, and lessons learned. APNEP is a participatory watershed management program that spans coastal NC and VA. Since the mid 1980’s members of the public have been involved in a process to develop and implement a Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan for the region via a Citizen Advisory Committee (CAC). I evaluate APNEP using qualitative and quantitative data collected through interviews and surveys of CAC members. Members of the Citizen Advisory Committee perceive broad stakeholder involvement, common goals, and dedicated staff as the primary strengths of the APNEP process. Perceived ecological outcomes are related primarily to water quality improvements. Social capital outcomes (such as improved social networks and education) are the impacts of APNEP that CAC members most frequently recognize. Program challenges include insufficient funding and lack of immediate and visible impacts. The study concludes with lessons learned from the APNEP case study evaluation which could inform the design of participatory watershed management programs in other watersheds. Many of the positive results that APNEP participants reported would not have been captured by traditional evaluations focused only on measuring biophysical outcomes. The evaluative framework developed in this study is therefore a valuable tool to provide a more holistic evaluation of the full impacts of any participatory watershed management program.
DepartmentNicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences
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