Watershed Management in the Federal Government

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Watersheds in the United States are very valuable. Their waters support a wide range of purposes, including irrigation, fisheries, industrial operations, recreational pursuits, aquatic habitat, and drinking water. Efficient and effective watershed management must consider all of these purposes and plan accordingly. Watershed management is conducted by many entities, with one of the largest and most important partners being the federal government. Although many federal agencies conduct watershed management, they often act out of concert with one another, even across the same watersheds. This lack of coordination leads to duplications of efforts as well as gaps in services offered. Among federal agencies, the U.S. Forest Service, in particular, has major responsibilities for protecting water resources because of its position as owner of many of the nation’s headwaters. This paper highlights duplications and gaps which occur across the federal government in watershed management, and offers policy recommendations on how to streamline efforts. It details the history of the U.S. Forest Service in watershed management. It argues how a paradigm shift in resource management within the U.S. Forest Service has negatively affected morale in a manner which hinders successful watershed management. A history of forest planning is provided. Finally, there is an analysis of the 2011 Planning Rule with predictions on how implementation of the rule will affect watershed management. Results indicate that greater coordination of water quality monitoring data collection efforts would be accomplished with the establishment of a central clearinghouse, as well as the designation of a single agency responsible for coordinating efforts. More data are necessary to properly assess and address water quantity concerns in the United States. The U.S. Forest Service has struggled, and will continue to struggle with watershed management due to its many priorities as well as a lack of general employee morale in the agency. The 2011 Planning Rule, although flexible and adaptable, grants unprecedented levels of discretion to officials. It remains to be seen what effect this will have on watershed management in the U.S. Forest Service.





Vuxton, Emily (2011). Watershed Management in the Federal Government. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/3594.

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