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2014-2015 Executive Seminar Program Case Studies

Program Year Theme: Fire and Water - Complex Interdependencies in Natural Resource Management and Restoration

All three of this year’s cases focus on collaborative efforts by federal, state and local agencies, tribes, and communities to address wickedly complex forest and water management challenges with limited decision space due to law and policy from different eras at work in communities that have low trust in governmentThe case studies will illustrate principles of collaborative governance and will highlight how climate change is factoring into natural resource policies, planning, and actions.

A River Restored? The Yakima River Basin Integrated Water Resource Management Plan

Date: October 20 - 24, 2014

Location: Yakima and Cle Elum, Washington



The Yakima River, originating on the eastside of the Cascade Mountains in central Washington, irrigates 500,000 acres of high value fruit trees, hops, wine grapes, hay and row crops in an otherwise arid, sagebrush landscape.  In 1980, the Yakama Nation successfully sued the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) to force changes in irrigation water management to promote recovery of declining spring chinook populations in the Yakima basin.  While some progress was made through water conservation and hatchery programs throughout the 1990s and early 2000’s, drought conditions, increasing agricultural demand, competition for water by other users, and ESA listing of steelhead and bull trout intensified the need to find a solution to the basin’s water problems.  In 2009, the Washington Department of Ecology and BOR brought representatives from the Yakama Nation, irrigation districts, environmental organizations, and federal, state, county, and city governments together to develop the Yakima River Basin Integrated Water Resource Management Plan (YBIP).  This consensus-based plan has seven major elements addressing many aspects of water use, management and conservation.  The estimated cost for the plan is $5 billion over 30 years.  The case study focuses on the collaborative work that led to the YBIP, the nature of basin-wide planning and the challenges of sustaining implementation of such a large-scale plan into the future with o


r without requested funding.  The seminar will also highlight the key role the Yakama Nation is playing in this ambitious plan.




Vital Recovery: The Douglas Complex Fires

Date: March 16 - 20, 2015

Location: Canyonville, Oregon

Early in the morning of July 26, 2013, a dry lightning storm sparked more than 80 fires on federal, state and private forestlands in Southwest Oregon, setting the stage for the most severe fire season in the state since the 1950’s.  At the peak of a two-month campaign, the Douglas Fire Complex, west of Canyonville, was the top-priority fire in the U.S. with up to 6,000 fire fighters from 33 states and Canada dispatched to the area.  Because of a combination of longstanding agreements and relationships among the Oregon Department of Forestry, Fire Protective Districts, and federal and private land managers, and changes made by these partners in the face of the challenging 2012 fire season, the suppression response to the Douglas Complex Fire was considered a model for successful employment of the Incident Command System to a large scale firefighting operation, interagency cooperation, and engagement of local communities.

Now, federal and state agencies and private forestland owners are conducting post-fire work, including rehabilitation, stabilization, habitat restoration, and economic recovery.  The Douglas fires burned through checkerboard ownership, including 25,000 acres on the Medford and Roseburg BLM Districts, and about 23,000 acres belonging to 27 different private landowners.  Adjacent industrial forest owners are frustrated and concerned with BLM's proposed restoration and management of burned Late Successional Reserve and Matrix areas, which are designed under conservative provisions of the Northwest Forest Plan. 

This case will look at all phases of firefighting: before, during and post-fire incident.  The case study will highlight the Incident Command System, interagency cooperation and engagement of local communities in response to catastrophic wildfire, and the ecological issues and political challenges of restoring mixed-ownership forests governed by dramatically different laws and policy objectives. 



Deep Connections: Re-balancing Flows in the Deschutes River Basin


Date: May 18 - 22, 2015

Location: Bend, Oregon




Originating in the Cascade Mountains, the Deschutes River flows through porous volcanic deposits and emerges as a large spring fed stream about thirty miles west of Bend, Oregon.  However, nearly 90% of the stream flow is diverted in the Bend area through canals during the irrigation season, resulting in degraded habitat for fish and wildlife habitat and poor water quality.

Faced with increased competition for surface and groundwater uses in Central Oregon, the Deschutes River Conservancy (DRC) was founded in 1996 by the Environmental Defense, the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation and local irrigation districts to work collaboratively with stakeholders on market based solutions to restore water to the Deschutes River.  In the early 2000’s, new state groundwater regulations threatened to restrict rapid urban growth and future development, which in turn intensified collaborative conservation and water management efforts.  Water management has been further complicated in recent years by temperature and flow modification at Round Butte Dam and reintroduction of ESA listed steelhead and salmon into the Deschutes River Basin.  This basin has been an “early adopter” of legal, market based and community strategies for watershed management.  The case study will focus on the challenges and opportunities over time in balancing groundwater and stream flows for fish, recreation, agricultural, commercial, industrial and municipal uses.  This case also illustrates the challenges in sustaining collaborative efforts in an environment of limited funding and challenges in adapting to changing institutional arrangements, bases of authority and policy issues over time and within the constrains of Oregon water law. 





Final Capstone Session


Dates: June 25 - 26, 2015


Location: Portland State University Campus


In stonework, a capstone is the central block that holds an arch together and supports the other stones in the arch. The arch of the ESP program year is held together by the final two-day wrap-up session, which integrates the leadership lessons learned over the course of the year with the practical challenges participants face in their agencies.


Participants come prepared to discuss issues from their own work experience and apply principles learned during the year to these issues. They present their conclusions to a panel of ESP Advisory Board members and Portland State University faculty, who provide feedback. Beyond providing a summative learning experience, this session provides an opportunity to deepen professional relationships and friendships formed over the program year.