Twenty-first century problems require novel and dynamic solutions. Utah's Watershed Restoration Initiative (UWRI) is committed to providing such solutions for the serious, statewide issues of conserving, managing, and restoring Utah's vast and diverse watersheds by integrating the disciplines of soil, water, plants, and animals. In an unprecedented collaborative effort, UWRI combines the resources of agencies and organizations with long histories of ecosystem management and restoration endeavors in Utah into a single, functional partnership.

The Problem

Historic and recent ecosystem changes, often human-induced, have resulted in a current landscape in need of our attention and effort. Invasion of exotic species and pathogens, increased frequency and intensity of wildfire, conversion of healthy lands to degraded lands, land fragmentation, habitat loss, and lack of public understanding of these issues are just a few of the factors facing Utah's ecosystems and citizens. These problems not only affect wildlife and their habitat, but also the many goods and services provided by Utah's land base.

Approaches to solutions

The UWRI has developed three general approaches to address the risks to the shared interests of the partnership. The first is ecosystem restoration through physical manipulations such as seeding, reconstruction, vegetation management, and other means. Secondly, administrative changes in land management may be made through permitted or allowed uses and management prescriptions. This may be done independently of, or together with, physical interventions. Finally, communication and team building among public, stakeholders, and UWRI is promoted to better understand the risks to natural resources and values, and to improve cooperation and problem solving across boundaries.

Organization

The partnership is represented at four levels of organization.

  1. Director's Council—Agency and organization administrators meet regularly.
  2. Statewide Core Teams—Each member has a representative on a state-level team that meets regularly alongside of conservation organizations to monitor the effectiveness of each group's involvement in the partnership, share information about new programs, discuss problems and address resource allocation needs.
  3. Regional Teams—Organized in each of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources' five administrative regions, these teams consist of UtahPCD members, conservation organizations, and stakeholders who meet to discuss priority conservation focus areas, identify potential projects and pool resources (funding, technical assistance, logistics support) needed to implement restoration projects.
  4. Local Conservation Work Groups—Identify local conservation concerns and develop strategies to meet local needs.

Of all these levels of organization, the Regional Teams fill the important role of acting as clearinghouses for conservation priorities and actions. Each team defines focus areas for their region and habitat restoration objectives for those areas. Objectives are developed collaboratively while focusing on management plans, the best available science, and outreach to targeted publics.

Projects

Each year, resource managers within the partnership propose projects to the Regional Teams. Proposals are entered into a statewide projects database and reviewed at Regional Team meetings. This approach helps the partners share information and resources, and many of the projects receive support from several partners. Project objectives vary widely from mechanical vegetation manipulation, to requests for equipment and seed to implement projects. Three basic criteria are used to evaluate the merits of projects:

  • How well the project proposal ties to meeting goals and objectives in plans that have been approved through a public process
  • How well the project mitigates the threat to land health
  • Whether the project maximizes the return on an investment made to implement the project