WASHINGTON, D.C.—The week of May 7, the Forest Service partnered with the University of Montana to conduct the Sustainable Watershed Management Workshop in San Salvador, El Salvador, for 24 protected area managers from 12 countries in Central and South America. The workshop was organized by the International Programs office.
Carol Howe, resource information specialist on the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison National Forests, and Shauna Jensen, hydrologist on the San Juan National Forest, joined Professor Keith Bosak from the University of Montana to deliver the workshop. The workshop trained participants in three tools: the Watershed Condition Framework, the Watershed Vulnerability Assessment, and Socio-Ecological Systems. Through training in WCF and WVA, two tools developed by the Forest Service, participants gained skills in evaluating watershed health and vulnerability in order to design, implement and monitor effective management and restoration activities. This was combined with training in SES, a tool that emphasizes the integration of ecological and social systems, encouraging land managers to consider interactions and interdependencies between humans, ecosystems and wildlife when designing management actions.
Through formal instruction, discussions, group activities and a field day at the Apaneca-Ilamatepec Biosphere Reserve, participants gained a strong foundation in these tools and how to use them to manage watersheds and increase watershed resilience and adaptation to a changing climate.
Throughout Latin America, freshwater availability in a variety of ecosystems has been drastically affected by land-use pressures and climate change. In El Salvador, as in other countries in the region, decreased water availability has significant social, economic and ecological impacts. Since protected areas store much of the region’s freshwater, protected area managers can play an important role in mitigating the effects of climate change on water resources. Tools for land managers to evaluate, classify, restore and monitor watersheds are crucial to help protect water resources and biodiversity, increase water security and improve livelihoods.