By Oliver Lysaght
More than 1,000 people live, work, and play in the Sonoita Creek Watershed, all with varying opinions, values and preferences regarding the environment around them. In order to better understand this social landscape and its relationship to its near environs, in May 2017 BRLI disseminated a survey to watershed residents eliciting information on a range of topics including: attitudes towards, and participation in, activities in the Sonoita Creek Watershed; values residents associate with the area; and preferences for watershed management.
This survey is one research venture of several currently being undertaken under the rubric of the Borderlands Restoration Leadership Institute’s ‘Patagonia’s Water Future’ project. Aquifer recharge modeling, stream-flow analysis and groundwater monitoring are also being undertaken concurrently. Its insights can help us better understand how ecological restoration and a restoration economy might support the ecological and economic values of residents in, and visitors to, the Sonoita Creek Watershed.
Preliminary results were presented on June 3rd at Science on the Sonoita Plains:
As the old adage goes - ‘the more we know about the past, the better we’ll be prepared for the future’.
It was an honor and pleasure to hear a morning of recollections about water history in the Sonoita Creek Watershed with Patagonia's community members. We learned of the lush environment that sustained the Sonorasaurus thompsoni, a 49 ft long and 27 ft tall dinosaur that lived in our neighboring watershed in the middle of the Cretaceous period. We explored living memories with attendants who shared stories of bucolic picnics on the banks of the Sonoita Creek and wild west standoffs in the 1930s over blowing up the local bridge to prevent rising waters from flooding the town.
The Borderlands Institute, together with Friends of Sonoita Creek and the Flood and Flow Committee had the opportunity to introduce the science, models and planning processes which are being developed to better inform decision-making in our home watershed. Responses from the audience regarding which topics they view as important will direct future research of the institute, ensuring what we do is useful to the people who work, live and play in our beloved borderlands region.
By Oliver Lysaght, Laura M. Norman, Richard Pritzlaff, David Seibert, and H. Ron Pulliam
(ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Darius Semmens, Ken Bagstad, Kelly Mott-LaCroix, Dave Ellis...)
Abstract: The Sonoita Creek Watershed is bound by the Patagonia and Santa Rita Mountains, where surface water flows westerly, eventually draining into the Santa Cruz River. Over 1000 people live, work, and play in the Sonoita Creek watershed, all with varying opinions about what is important to them. Ecosystem services, including those associated with healthy, biologically diverse natural habitats such as forests, urban green spaces, wetlands, grasslands, and rivers, provide natural benefits to people in a variety of forms. In order to better understand how people value ecological restoration and a restoration economy, we have developed a survey which is currently being disseminated and which seeks to gain insight into the values residents of the Sonoita Creek Watershed place on provisioning, regulating and cultural ecosystem services. Surveyed topics include: residents’ economic relationship to water; attitudes towards, and participation in, activities in the Sonoita Creek watershed; familiarity with terminology; preferences for resource management; and a spatially-explicit identification of where cultural values arise within the jurisdiction. Our end goal is to develop input for a regional decision-making tool called, “Social Values for Ecosystem Services” (SolVES), which uses GIS to assess, map, and quantify the social values assigned by stakeholders to ecosystem services. Insights from this survey will guide watershed management in the Sonoita Creek Watershed and strengthen restoration efforts via community participation.
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