Wetland, Stream Bank, and Shoreline Restoration
Watershed Conservation Collaboration Success Story! Conservationists, Farmers, Ranchers, and Government Working Together in Teton Valley, Idaho
Gini Van Siclen, Certified Project Management Professional, University of Notre Dame Mendoza College of Business Master of Nonprofit Administration, The Johns Hopkins University GWC Whiting School of Engineering, MA, Mathematical Sciences, Duke University, BA French
Adjunct Faculty, Naropa University, Resilient Leadership MA Program, Treasurer, Friends of the Teton River
Friends of the Teton River
Can conservation organizations, ranchers, farmers, irrigators, contractors, and government agencies work together to protect a complex watershed? Yes! Learn how Friends of the Teton River has built relationships leading to successful collaboration on complex watershed protection projects in Teton Valley, Idaho.
Friends of the Teton River (FTR), a nationally recognized leader in science and community-based watershed protection and restoration, was founded in 2001 by a diverse group of stakeholders, including farmers, anglers, scientists, agency personnel, and conservation interests who were concerned by declines in water quality and the Teton River cutthroat fishery. FTR continues working in partnership with the community, state and federal agencies and many other stakeholders to find common ground and win-win solutions for watershed conservation.
A key part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, the Teton Valley watershed provides habitat migration and spawning grounds for the native Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout. This pastoral valley on the west side of the Teton Mountain Range is famous for its Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout fishery, agriculture products, including seed potatoes and barley, and year-round recreation. Teton Valley epitomizes a “New West” blend of agriculture and recreation—from farming to fly-fishing, and ranching to rafting—with an economy and ecology that depend on sustaining healthy water and soil. The valley’s population includes families of original settlers, who have been farming and ranching for over a century, and relative “newcomers,” who chose Teton Valley because of its pastoral and scenic beauty and recreation opportunities. Given these differences, how do you find common goals and interests and build trusting relationships so the community can work together to protect the watershed?
To sort this out, we will look at two specific areas of FTR’s work: 1. The Teton Creek Corridor Project (TCCP), a multi-year, multi-million-dollar, multi-partner stream restoration and flood prevention project; and 2. FTR’s Farms and Fish Program, through which FTR has been building relationships and finding common ground with the agriculture community to address water quality, water availability, and soil health issues.
The Teton Creek Corridor Project became necessary when a developer dug a deep, straight channel in Teton Creek, changing the natural flow of the stream, which is in an alluvial plain. This channelization resulted in significantly increased flood risk to the city of Driggs, huge increases in sediment washing downstream into the Teton River, and damage to upstream and downstream properties. Many parties are involved in remediating Teton Creek, and not all of them have always gotten along, including FTR, homeowners, farmers, the local land trust, the city and county governments, and more.
Through our Farms and Fish Program, FTR works with the Teton County Soil Conservation Service, Farm Bureau, local farmers, rancher, and irrigators, to protect soil health and water quality, and improve water availability. Learn how our no-till drill program is taking hold, and how we help farmers with soil quality and water availability.
By considering the various stakeholders, history, challenges, false starts, and successes of these two collaborative projects we will be able to identify key factors of successful collaboration, including trust, clear communication, identification of mutual interests, agreed upon processes for conflict management and negotiation, and more. We will also see the framework required to initiate, maintain, and follow through with collaborations, even those with potentially adversarial partners. Then we will explore the attributes an organization should have firmly in place as it builds relationships with multiple partners in a complex environment. You will see that indeed, collaboration works, it is cost-effective, real work gets done, and people really can get along. You will see how you can move your organization towards successful collaboration!