Understanding Community Values of Floodplain Preservation: a Case Study along the Carson River, Nevada
AuthorMann, Kathryn B.
AdvisorBerry, Kate A.
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To counteract the worldwide decline of riparian ecosystems, calls have been made for adaptive management strategies that provide solutions to reestablish natural flood regimes and reconnect rivers with their floodplains. Adaptive management has been shown to be most successful when community stakeholders are involved in and support restoration plans. Better understanding of motivations behind stakeholder support of land conservation efforts for river restoration is needed. Stakeholder agencies and non-profits concerned with the Carson River in northwestern Nevada are currently working with landowners on riparian restoration projects, but support from the voting public to provide future funding to maintain and expand these efforts has been mixed. In attempt to aid the adaptive management strategies for river restoration that are active within the Carson River watershed, this study examines how the voting public that lives within the watershed of the Middle Carson River interacts with and perceives the river's resources and floodplain land conservation. A mail/internet survey of registered voters within the watershed of two counties, Douglas and Lyon, which house the greatest potential for land conservation within the floodplain was employed to identify voter motivations to support future conservation initiatives while providing baseline data to gauge future changes. Respondents tended to be middle aged, landowners, educated with at least some college, and residents of the county for over ten years. The majority of survey respondents were inclined to consider urban development a threat to the river and its riparian resources and support agricultural land preservation. Among the respondents, these attitudes were more pronounced among older age groups, more highly educated people, landowners, residents with longer county tenure, residents of Douglas County, and people who reported to have voted for past bond initiatives for land conservation. Over half of the respondents utilized the river (62%) as well as the floodplain (85%) for recreational activities and be concerned about water quality (77%), availability of water for ecosystem health (60%), and restoration of wildlife habitats (59%). Floodplain development restrictions were considered beneficial for over 55% of respondents for potential provision of open space, protection of wildlife habitats, scenic and amenity values, desirable quality of life, and protection of water quality. Logistic regression determined that boating, volunteering with habitat restoration, and following issues on neighboring rivers were the most significant predictors of favorable attitudes and voting behavior toward land conservation. From findings of this study, it appears that attitudes and subsequent conservation action are influenced by active participation through recreational or restoration activities on the river and within the floodplain or a passive activity that contextualizes watershed issues through comparisons to other rivers. These findings hold local implications for local river restoration locally and along other rivers where adaptive management efforts seek support from stakeholders.