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Watershed management workshop helps managers of protected area throughout Latin America

CHILE – In mid-August 2019, the USDA Forest Service and the University of Montana conducted a workshop on Sustainable Watershed Management in Santiago, Chile. The workshop was led by Todd Ellsworth, acting resource officer/watershed program manager, Inyo National Forest; Carol Howe, retired resource information specialist / forest climate change, Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests; and professor Keith Bosak from the UMT. The program brought together participants from Mexico, Central and South America.

The USDA Forest Service helps managers tackle watershed management and climate change issues throughout Latin America, where freshwater availability in a variety of ecosystems has been drastically affected by the changing climate, causing significant social, economic and ecological implications. In Chile, increased human-pressures and the changing climate, have caused a decrease in water availability for populations that rely on the water for their daily needs. Since protected areas store much of the region’s freshwater, protected area managers play an important role in directing adaptation policy measures and working to mitigate the effects of the changing climate to sustain livelihoods in the region.

Three ladies giving a presentation
During the recent Watershed Management Workshop for protected area managers from across Latin America, several participants share a group presentation explaining the social mapping component of the Social-Ecological Systems framework. Santiago, Chile. USDA Forest Service photo.
Group photo
The participants, trainers, and facilitators of the Watershed Management Workshop gather for a group photo during their field trip to the Reserva National Lago Peñuelas, Chile. USDA Forest Service photo.

During the workshop, protected area managers from Latin America discussed the theoretical foundations of watershed management, as well as several concrete tools such as the USFS Watershed Condition Framework, USFS Watershed Vulnerability Assessment, and Socio-Ecological Systems. The WCF enables land managers can determine the condition of an individual watershed, design and implement restoration actions, and monitor the effects of those actions. The WVA allows managers to evaluate the vulnerability of watersheds and design and implement management actions that make watersheds more resilient to the effects of a changing climate. The SES emphasizes the integration of ecological and social system components and processes into the management of the watershed. Tools like these, help protect water resources and biodiversity, provide water security and improve livelihoods.  

Workshop participants had the opportunity to discuss potential applications of the techniques in their home countries and how to adapt them to the Latin American context.