Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Susan Crow Presents: Creating Resilient Communities: Tools for Regional Land Use Planning in the Face of Hazards in South Carolina

by Lydia Bilodeau, Monica Giermek, and Priscilla Hernandez

Since the early 1990’s, Susan Crow has focused her efforts on applying GIS and other technologies to ecosystem based management programs in order to help communities have a better understanding on the negative implications that comes with industrial development and population growth. She believes that by recognizing these implications and visualizing future alternative, communities can make sustainable decisions. PlaceMatters is a non profit organization that supports tools for community involvement in land use planning situations. Place Matter takes pride in bridging the divide between social and science tools and approaches. This is done by giving recommendations for effective integration of these two approaches, and providing training and outreach programs in order to broaden use of division support tools.

Her current project is titled, “Creating Resilient Communities, Ecosystem Based Management”.  The site for the project is the tri-county region of South Carolina. This region is an area that has been affected by Hurricane Katrina and Rita, growth, and changing sea levels, a result of global climate change. Creating Resilient Communities wishes to incorporate holistic planning and adaptive management.  This project will help area residents, businesses, planners, and elected officials make better informed decisions concerning where land should be developed. It also aims to prepare communities to resist damage from natural disasters, conserve natural areas, and assess coast community vulnerability.

Creating resilient communities faces certain challenges due to the tri-counties having fractured governance and planning, no jurisdictional coordination, and no regional database. They hope their efforts will open up several opportunities for the community, such as public and private partnership, regional planning initiatives and hopefully provide a willingness to cooperate among the different stakeholders. This project is planned to run up until 2009. Susan Crown and Place Matters hope that communities will benefit from all their combined efforts.  Expected benefits include flood control, recreation, tourism, food materials, and fish and wildlife preservation.

­Susan Crow is a member of the public service faculty of the Institute of Government and the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at the University of Georgia. She is currently a fellow for PlaceMatters, a program of theDavid and Lucile Packard Foundation located in Denver.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Patricia Riexinger Speaks About Wetlands at ESF

By: Kacie Gehl, ESF Graduate Student

Ms. Patricia Riexinger, Director of Fish, Wildlife, and Marine Resources, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, presented Freshwater Wetlands: Conservation Policy in New York State Tuesday, April 8, 2008.  Ms. Riexinger’s presentation was sponsored by the Environmental Studies Randolph G. Pack Environmental Institute and the ESF Women’s Caucus, and was the third presentation this spring in ESF’s Women in Environmental and Scientific Seminar Series. 

Ms. Riexinger began by defining herself as a “good bureaucrat”.  She elaborated that she began her career with the DEC doing field work which she one day decided wasn’t actually protecting the habitat of the species she cared for in a direct enough way.  She decided that in order to feel as though she was really making a difference, she would have to get involved with the politics and decision-making processes.  She conveyed that science alone will not manage habitat.  Although she feels DEC is making a big difference, she added the disclaimer that DEC can only do the “legal thing” not always what they feel is the “right thing.”  This idea was further discussed with examples of federal court cases and county- level disagreements.

Ms. Riexinger described wetlands and the painstaking process of mapping wetlands with differing views between agencies on the exact definition of wetland delineation.  She reminded the audience that only wetlands 12.4 acres or larger in size are protected which only protects about 75-80% of wetlands by acreage.  This specification may exclude wetlands that are of smaller acreage, but which are of unusual local importance.  She emphasized that it is still very important to protect smaller wetlands but a compromise had to be made between the political and scientific levels of the argument.

Ms. Riexinger asked the question, “What will climate change mean for managing natural resources in New York State?”  She encouraged the audience to think “big and bold” with their ideas for conservation and management because you have to think big to make change.  One change that the DEC is making currently is to amend their existing freshwater wetland maps to be defined on a watershed basis rather than along political boundaries.  This will stimulate the community to think about freshwater as watershed  systems and will lead to a greater understanding of the science behind the hydrologic processes involved in watershed management.

Ms. Riexinger received her B.S. from Cornell University in Wildlife Biology and her M. S. degree from the University of Albany in Biodiversity Conservation and Policy.  Along with her Director’s position, Ms. Riexinger is also an outdoorsperson who enjoys birding, snorkeling and traveling.  She is on her town Conservation Board and leads a Girl Scout troop.


Friday, April 4, 2008

Margaret Shannon Speaks on Making Feminist Theory a Part of Sustainable Forest Management

As part of the course requirements for FOR 797-2, students share the responsibility for reporting on the speakers in the Women in Scientific and Environmental Professions Speaker Series for distribution to co-sponsors and the Knothole.  The following was prepared by Kaity Cheng and Laura Sullivan. 
Dr. Margaret Shannon, Associate Dean of the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources at the University of Vermont addressed “The Essential Role of Research for Sustainable Forest Management: Feminist Theory and Practice” on April 4, 2008.  Dr. Shannon’s stated goal for her lecture was to make people think differently about their research. To that end, she encouraged an examination of our ideologies and the use of feminist theory to challenge the validity of key normative ideas.  She then proceeded to examine ideologies central to the field of forestry.

Shannon offered several reasons why feminist theory contributes to research.  She emphasized that women are the appropriate starting point for examining inequality. The role of women reveals structures and systems of power and privilege. She gave examples of societies where women locate or gather forest resources that sustain their communities, but have been excluded from forest management discussions.

Feminist theory emphasizes the lived realities of research participants. Incorporating the lived experience of all stakeholder groups results in more comprehensive research findings, and enhances the social agency of participants. Feminist theory is oriented toward social change; feminist research is conducted for participants, as opposed to about them.

One focus of the discussion was the research ideal, or the practice of high quality research. Shannon shared her conviction that research should involve interrogating knowledge systems. This process of inquiry should reveal structures and systems of power and privilege. Scientists should integrate theories of social power with theories underpinning forestry research.  Furthermore, research as critique should draw the invisible from its shadows and make it known.

Through paintings and words, Shannon discussed sustainable forest management, which she noted is distinct from the concept of sustainable forests.  Sustainable Forest Management is more about developing a sustainable management ideology that, it is assumed, will in turn help sustain forests.  She believes it should be in opposition to ‘single objective’ forest management. Vivid in her descriptions, Dr. Shannon compared treating the forest as if it has a single value to pornography, which treats women as if they had a single value.

The lecture was sponsored by the Department of Forest and Natural Resources Management and the ESF Women’s Caucus as C. Eugene Farnsworth Memorial lecturer and part of the  Women in Scientific and Environmental Professions Seminar Series.  For information about upcoming lectures in the series, please visit http://www.esf.edu/womenscaucus. 

Shannon is a former SUNY ESF faculty member.  She participated in the development of the Montreal Process Criteria and Indicators for Sustainable Forest Management.  Shannon was a Senior Fulbright Fellow at the University of Freiburg, Germany, in the Forest and Environmental Science Department.  She has also directed the Environmental Law Program at SUNY Buffalo Law School.