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Posts Tagged: Lynn Huntsinger

Web-based tools' contribution to public participation and natural resource management

Because management projects in contentious natural resource contexts often involve finding reasonable compromise or shared understandings between participants, the success (or failure) of such management is partly about communicating information. Techniques for public participation continue to evolve in order to facilitate a more comprehensive flow of information to, from, and between diverse audiences.

The Internet is part of this evolution: web-based tools provide information exchange between diverse participants and stakeholders about complex environmental systems. But how effective are these tools and do they facilitate the flow of information required in adaptive management? Maggi Kelly, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management at UC Berkeley, and Lynn Huntsinger, professor in ESPM at Berkeley, and graduate students Shasta Ferranto, Ken-ichi Ueda and Shufei Lei examined the role of the web in facilitating public participation through a case study - the Sierra Nevada Adaptive Management Project (SNAMP) - a participatory adaptive management project focused on Forest Service vegetation management treatments in California’s Sierra Nevada with a participatory website.

Analyzing three years of website traffic data from Google Analytics, researchers found that the SNAMP website received over 71,000 unique visits from the United States and other countries. Site traffic peaked when quarterly “web updates”- emails sent out to stakeholders with information about the project and any updates - were sent. The data from an email survey conducted by the SNAMP Public Participation Team in 2010 showed that most survey respondents (72.2 percent) had visited the website. Email survey respondents also agreed that the website helped them keep up with SNAMP events, increased information transparency, was easy to use, and was a good source of information. The web also played a small, but important role in public consultation, by providing a discussion board for targeted questions and feedback between the public and SNAMP scientists. However, Internet technology did not actively support the two-way flow of information necessary for mutual learning. It complements, but does not substitute for, face-to-face interactions and public meetings; does not facilitate three-party conversations very well; and has a very small user base to generate sufficient online content and dialogue.

SNAMP website homepage.

Based on this case study, public participation is most effective when a combination of participatory tools are used, including the web, public meetings, active outreach, and open channels of communication for reaching a broad pool of participants needed for social networking. Website design should be adaptive, and website evolution and maintenance should be budgeted ahead and funded. User needs assessments are necessary to understand how the users collaborate and interact during the life of a project.

Full Reference: M.Kelly, S.Ferranto, K.Ueda, S.Lei, and L.Huntsinger. 2012. Expanding the table: the web as a tool for participatory adaptive management in California forests. Journal of Environmental Management 109: 1-11.

Posted on Wednesday, September 26, 2012 at 8:21 AM

Cattle ranching offers notable public benefits

The Sierra Nevada and Coastal Range foothills are replete with wide open spaces - a home for birds and other wildlife, majestic oaks and grazing cattle. The bucolic countryside vistas that come courtesy of California’s ranchers are among the many public benefits of rangeland grazing.

“The public doesn’t always realize what ranchers are doing and how that benefits everyone,” said Bill Tietje, UC Cooperative Extension natural resources specialist based in San Luis Obispo County.  “No one really thinks about it, until it’s gone.”

Many rangeland benefits can be grouped as “ecosystem services.” According to scientists:

  • Rangeland plays a role in the state’s water cycling. Eighty percent of California water flows through rangeland.
  • The diversity of plants and animals is greater on grazed, managed grassland than on unmanaged grassland.
  • Wild raptors overwinter on grasslands managed for beef cattle.
  • Half the habitat for the tiger salamander is grazed stockponds, created by ranchers to provide water for their cattle. The stockpond’s edge of clipped grass and the absence of crowding shrubbery mimic the rare species’ natural habitat – vernal pools.
  • Rangeland provides habitat for insects that are valuable for pollination.
  • Cattle reduce the dry grass that could fuel wildfire.
  • Grazing improves the habitat for the Bay checkerspot butterfly, a threatened California insect.
  • Rangeland sequesters carbon in the soil.

There are threats to the long term viability of cattle ranches in California that put all these benefits at risk:

The sale of the ranch for development is very attractive for a rancher who isn’t making a sufficient profit on the land. Also, the division of a ranch for inheritance purposes can make it difficult to keep a ranch intact and in the business of raising cattle.

UC Berkeley professor of rangeland management and ecology Lynn Huntsinger said public misunderstanding of and a lack of appreciation for ranching is another way the system is threatened.

“Imposing regulations that aren’t needed and not valuing ranchers as stewards can have a demoralizing effect,” Huntsinger said.

Much of the land grazed by ranchers is public and grazing is supported by public and environmental agencies - the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, parks and preserves - because of the many benefits it provides.

Posted on Monday, July 19, 2010 at 11:45 AM

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