Policy Implementation in Collaborative Watershed Management: A Multi-Case Study of Collaborative Efforts under Washington’s Watershed Planning Act
Robinson, Trevor Lee
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In many parts of the world, collaborative watershed management has become a common approach for place-based water resource governance. This study examined four local-scale collaborative watershed planning efforts that developed Watershed Management Plans under Washington State’s Watershed Planning Act of 1998. These efforts are ongoing, with an emphasis on plan implementation, but prospects for continued funding are uncertain. I used qualitative interview data supported by document analysis to explore topics related to plan implementation in collaborative regimes, plan use, and strategies for improving the sustainability of collaborative efforts. Results demonstrate how the broader-scale policy context, resources, program choices, and participant interactions can influence plan implementation. The plans themselves have largely fulfilled their intended roles as statements of participants’ shared theories of change, though funding, competing planning frameworks, and elapsed time have in some cases diminished the usefulness of these documents. Strategies to improve collaborative partnership sustainability include increased community outreach and consolidation of governance and resources. My findings suggest that a watershed’s geographic location and population are not good predictors for these types of issues. Instead, the most crucial factors for implementation may vary according to the types of actions being taken and the types of stakeholders that are affected. Resources, capacities, and stakeholders from outside the watershed’s biophysical boundaries can also benefit implementation and sustainability.
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