Utton Center Presents River Restoration Conference

John Bezdeck, left, and Professor Reed BensonJohn Bezdeck, left, and Professor Reed Benson lead a discussion.

The Utton Transboundary Resources Center joined with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to host a conference to assess the bureau’s large-scale river restoration activities. The title of the two-day conference in mid-September was, “River Restoration: Exploring Institutional Challenges and Opportunities.” Professor Denise Fort, director of the Utton Center, moderated the conference.

A planning team that included Fort, the Utton Center’s Susan Kelly (`81) and a group of bureau managers organized the program around several major themes reflecting the institutional challenges to river restoration programs:

  • Organizational and decision-making structure (also called governance or institutional arrangements);
  • Issues of scale, complexity and duration of programs;
  • Organization of science;
  • Investment and political support;
  • Issues of law and policy;
  • Measuring progress toward restoration.

Susan Kelly and Denise FortSusan Kelly (`81), left, and Professor Denise Fort enjoy a presentation.

Within each theme, an academic expert was paired with a person speaking from the bureau’s perspective. For example, UNM Law Professor Reed Benson and John Bezdek, assistant solicitor for water and power at the Department of the Interior, discussed how the law shapes river restoration efforts. This combination provided conference participants with a broad perspective on the status and issues regarding river restoration institutional arrangements.

The goal of the conference was to connect contemporary scholarship with the bureau's on-the-ground experience with river restoration programs, provide opportunities for peer-to-peer learning to improve the bureau's efforts, synthesize what is known about the effect of various organizational arrangements on success in restoration projects and develop recommendations for the Bureau of Reclamation and other agencies.

Of the 120 attendees, many were bureau employees working on river restoration from regional offices around the West; however, the conference also included the participation of academic experts and representatives from other federal agencies, state-based agencies, water users, NGOs, tribes and private interests.

The major presentations will be posted on the conference website when they become available. The Utton Center also will summarize the proceedings in a publication, which will include summaries of information about the Bureau of Reclamation’s river restoration programs and describe lessons learned, including recommendations for future restoration efforts. This publication will be posted on the conference website.

The Utton Center has also compiled a selected bibliography on restoration and governance of scholarly references for professional working the arena of river restoration.

River Restoration Conference   River Restoration Conference

River Restoration Conference   River Restoration Conference

September 22, 2011