Southeastern Partnership for Forestry and Water Quality
The Endowment, the South Carolina Rural Watershed Association, and the USDA. Forest Service hosted a meeting in Greenville, SC, in spring of 2012 that brought together leadership from water utilities and the forestry community in the southeast. The Partnership’s purpose is to facilitate conservation and better management of the watersheds within the southern region through improved understanding and communication between the forest and water utility sectors. The goals of this particular project are to:
Work with state forestry agencies to initiate and facilitate communication among water supply authorities and the forestry and conservation communities in four southern states over the course of one year. States may include, but are not limited to: Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, and Texas.
Initiate, coordinate and assist in the facilitation of a state-wide forest and water partnership based meeting in each of the selected states.
In conjunction with the above, identify watersheds and/or future collaboratives and initiatives that will have a high degree of potential success to achieve watershed protection goals in areas that supply public drinking water in each of the four states based on sufficient interest among the above entities to pursue further actions.
Southeastern Partnership for Forests and Water Background The Partnership was launched by the USDA Forest Service and the South Carolina Rural Water Association at a meeting in Greenville, SC, on March 29, 2012. At this meeting more than 40 representatives from the water utility and forest sectors in South Carolina, Georgia, and North Carolina found much common ground with regard to the importance of healthy, well-managed forests to the Southeast’s water supply. There was strong consensus that maintaining or expanding healthy forests in watersheds is a cost-effective and appealing strategy for helping ensure clean, abundant supplies of water.Despite this broad agreement among the participants there are many challenges to maintaining forest cover in the Southeast, particularly in key watersheds. These challenges fall into three main categories:
Political: principally the lack of broad-scale planning and coordination efforts that link forest and land owners with water providers and users, and piecemeal zoning and regulations;
Financial: the lack of sustainable funding for forest conservation and management programs limits opportunities to secure healthy forests in important watersheds;
Communication: infrequent and ineffective communication between the forestry/landowner and water utility sectors limits opportunities for collaboration and coordination.Meeting participants agreed that continued dialogue was essential, and that other sectors, such as agriculture and development, should be included.
Desired Specific Outcomes
Initiate and develop working relationships at a state-wide and local level between state forestry agencies, Rural Water Associations, and other applicable agency and organization leaders and representatives with the ultimate goal of identifying watersheds and/or future collaboratives and initiatives which have high potential for cooperative forest conservation, sound management and restoration, and exploring potential pilot projects where it is possible to demonstrate the multiple values of forest cover and improved forest management to water supply and quality.
Meet with the above leaders and others to plan and organize a one-day meeting of a broad spectrum of forestry, resource conservation, and water supply authorities to share knowledge, available technical resources and assistance, and to identify potential target watersheds for further cooperative action;
Work with the above entities to organize, secure speakers and attendees, and provide logistical support to conduct a meeting in each of the four states;
Produce a report following each meeting that summarizes attendance, meeting substance, agreed upon follow-up actions, and recommendations for the Partnership; and,
Produce a final report that compiles findings and recommendations for further actions.