Abstract: Opening Plenary Session  4:30 pm (BACK)
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The Importance of Public Outreach and Education to Advance Restoration

Nikki Dictson
Texas Water Resources
College Station, TX

Successful funding and implementation of programs to protect and restore riparian and stream ecosystems require public outreach and education on water and natural resource issues as well as training restoration experts. Watershed and riparian restoration projects have a public component and require stakeholder support. The public and key stakeholders need to understand the issues to be engaged, make informed decisions, and implement best management practices (BMPs). Unfortunately, studies consistently reveal that the public suffers from a tremendous environmental literacy gap that is increasing rather than decreasing. Over 90% of US population reside in urban areas and are becoming increasingly disconnected from rural issues and the natural resources on which they depend. Due to these gaps in public understanding and connections, riparian and restoration ecologists and others should consider increased education efforts that will help the public better understand natural systems and challenges. For landowners and land managers to decide to adopt and implement innovative measures and restoration, they must first be informed, understand the benefits and observe demonstrations.  The Texas Riparian and Stream Ecosystem Program is a statewide program focused in watersheds prioritized for water quality impairments. The Program’s goals include providing a better understanding of riparian and watershed processes the benefits from healthy riparian areas, and the tools that can be employed to prevent and/or resolve degradation and improve water quality. This program is coordinated by Texas Water Resources Institute and is a multi-agency collaboration between TSSWCB, TPWD, USDA NRCS, Texas A&M Forest Service, Texas Riparian Association, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and many others. A brief summary of the program, techniques, and training course evaluations that includes intentions to adopt management practices will be discussed as an example of needed education programs.