Thanks to Mike McCloskey for sharing, and thanks to you for printing, his memo on the limits of collaboration. This is a very important issue: To what extent can environmental problems be solved through collaboration of interest groups at the watershed level? I believe the bottom line is that the environment needs both advocacy and collaboration, in equal doses.
River Network is committed to fostering watershed councils - citizen-driven, science-driven, broadly inclusive forums for dealing constructively with the land-use problems that are killing our rivers. These land-use issues cannot be solved through legislation, even if the political will were there (which it generally is not, particularly in the West). They are emotional issues that must be de-sloganized and dealt with locally.
Advocacy is necessary to give prominence to issues. Without a framework of environmental laws, and litigation to enforce those laws, there would be less incentive for interest groups to come to the table to work out solutions to environmental problems. The watershed movement in Oregon, for example, would not be where it is without the prospect of listings under the Endangered Species Act. The Sierra Club has been a powerful, steady force to create and maintain that regulatory background which is, to my mind, a prerequisite for successful collaboration.
The writer is president of River Network, a watershed conservation group.