by Larry MacDonnell
Active members of Colorado’s growing watershed community came together for the first time on August 4-5, 2000 to get acquainted and discuss ways to get better organized. The Colorado Watershed Assembly, held at the Keystone Center, connected representatives from 22 watershed groups located all around the state, as well as representatives from federal, state, and local agencies, nonprofits, and others committed to using collaborative, ecosystem or watershed-based approaches to solving environmental problems.
The first session at the Assembly featured short presentations by watershed group representatives highlighting aspects of their work. Following lunch, Don Elder of River Network provided a national perspective on watershed efforts. River Network has identified more than 1,600 local watershed groups across the county. According to Elder, there are state-level watershed or river organizations in about 35 states. The functions of these groups range widely — from simply facilitating communication among local watershed groups to acting as an advocate.
Participants then divided into four facilitated breakout groups to discuss possible approaches for better connecting Colorado’s watershed community. Each group considered a common list of questions. Responses were recorded and reported back to the full group at the end of the day. The group then adjourned to the Dillon Marina for hamburgers and beer.
The group reassembled the next morning, with Don Elder serving as facilitator. Participants focused on selecting and prioritizing functions they would like to see provided to support their efforts. Facilitating communication among those working on watershed matters emerged as the most important need. Participants also agreed on the importance of convening periodic meetings like the Assembly. Preparing and maintaining of catalog of federal and state programs and resources ranked next in importance to participants.
Finally the group turned to the matter of organization. Options were arrayed along a spectrum from simply maintaining the status quo to establishing a new organization. Other primary options were to have an existing agency or nonprofit provide these functions or to create a coalition of existing entities. While no one favored the status quo, all of the other options found proponents. As an interim step the group agreed to form a volunteer steering committee to begin performing at least some of the desired functions. In particular, the steering committee is to convene a second assembly — preferably within about six months.
For more information about the Colorado Watershed Assembly and ways to get involved, contact your local watershed group or call 303.545.6467 .