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Community goals- Lake and River management

Soil & Water Conservation Society of Metro Halifax (SWCSMH)

Modified: January 21, 2016           Narrative on water quality           Acknowledgements

"While lake aesthetics typically affects more people in the community, lakes also make a huge recreational contribution. Long home to traditional fishing, swimming, and boating, lake water sports now also encompass sailing, scuba diving, and wind surfing. And some people cherish lakes as a spiritual setting - a place to reflect - a place to look into the soul of the earth and find meaning in this world."


Step 1: Clarifying Goals

Click tree for `Land of the silver birch', a 55-second video by Vince MorashAldo Leopold, the world famous humanist, suggested in 1949 that we go beyond the local area, beyond our borders, beyond our time, and beyond our species to include future generations, the biotic community of plants and animals, and even the inorganic elements (air, water, and soil) upon which all life depends. His Land Ethic embraced the concept of Homo sapiens as part of a larger community rather than as masters of the universe.
"We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong we may begin to use it with love and respect.

All ethics so far evolved rest on a single premise; that the individual is a member of a community of interdependent parts. His instincts prompt him to compete for a place in the community, but his ethics prompt him also to cooperate (perhaps in order that there may be a place to compete for).

The Land Ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, water, plants, and animals or collectively: the land.

A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise."

Whose Goals?

../../VIEW/ICON/AN/sylvest.gifThis differentiates between professionals and citizens. After decades of professional management of natural resources, citizens are demanding a voice in setting the agenda and in making final decisions.

Some professionals are comfortable with the notion of "experts on tap, not on top"; others find it difficult to be "public servants" to a largely informed citizenry rather than resource managers. Their training to apply the single "best" technical solution to a problem often makes them intolerant of citizens who question their "scientific prescriptions".

But an increasingly sophisticated citizenry will no longer blindly follow the recommendations! Citizens now determine the goals for their lake (within its legal and limnological limits), decide which techniques to use, and help make it happen. They gather information, raise funds, monitor water quality, and volunteer their physical labor on lake projects.

Step 2: Gathering Information

Nominal Group Process:

Unlike the standard group meeting procedure, it does a good job of identifying all concerns.

A typical group meeting makes a decision through the following sequence: a motion, discussion, and a vote. This standard procedure frustrates many people either because they feel intimidated about speaking up before the group, or because a few dominant personalities monopolize the discussion. And the motion is made before the discussion, which often necessitates numerous amendments.

The nominal group method is designed to allow equal participation by all members of the group; it neutralizes dominant personalities. If a group exceeds 15 people, it is advisable to split the group into smaller subgroups and proceed until each subgroup has identified its "saved" pool. The "saved" pools are then combined and the entire group ranks the issues in the combined pool by the 10-4 procedure.

Participants rank the saved issues by assigning 10 points with a maximum of 4 points to any one item. The group then focuses on those items (2-5) receiving the most votes (usually, there is a clear break between a top set and the rest). Be sure, however, to preserve all issues in the minutes of the meetings. Thus, every person can see his/her contribution even if it didn't make the top set.

In addition to identifying issues, participants leave the process with a much higher sense of ownership than they do after participating in a standard meeting. After the nominal group experience, citizens identify with the top concerns because they've actively helped select them.

Delphi Process:

../../VIEW/PIC/AN/math-teacher.gifThe Delphi technique is based on the premise that any one expert (or citizen) has incomplete knowledge and is inherently biased. Therefore, a panel of experts is expected to produce a more complete range of issues or solutions and more balanced recommendations than a single expert.

The first stage of the process is to solicit the full range of issues, ideas, and concerns associated with the topic. The experts (at either a meeting or through correspondence) simply provide a "laundry list" of all items that might be appropriate.

In the second stage, the same experts rank the list developed in the first stage by some criterion of importance. Some concerns will require many phases before agreement is reached.

The results of the final phase are communicated to the organization that initiated the effort.

This procedure is too complicated and expensive for most lakeshore communities; but it does emphasize that lake organizations should get a second opinion on major recommendations they receive from a consultant or public agency!


Several narratives in this web page are either direct excerpts and/or adapted from Holdren et al., 2001 published by the North American Lake Management Society (NALMS) and the Terrene Institute in cooperation with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA). Others are from our own experiences over a whole decade and a half!

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