Feather River Coordinated Resource Management Group
What lessons can be drawn?
The role that the Plumas Corporation has played in staffing the CRM and implementing its agenda is an important lesson from this case. According to Wilcox, “We found talking to other groups that the ones that didn’t have a coordinator often folded or are essentially often little more than an advisory body when they wanted to be something more.” He suggested that it is critical that parties seeking to establish a collaborative group like the Feather River CRM identify funds to pay a coordinator for at least the first two to four years, even if that coordinator is only a half-time position. This lesson is also important for funders and granting agencies who want to help support CRM-type groups. It is important to fund coordinating activities, not just specific projects.
Effective communication has also been one of the keys to the group’s progress. As Wilcox explains, “we have had different levels of communication effectiveness.” The Feather River CRM has addressed this issue by making one CRM staff member’s prime task to facilitate communication among CRM partners. This helps to ensure that communication is not sidestepped when projects demand attention.
Despite pre-existing and ongoing tensions between many of the groups involved, the CRM’s attention to procedural details and a consensus-based decision-making process, and in particular the use of neutral facilitation, has strengthened their dialogue. In addition, their willingness to place the integrity of the group and its objective above the specific details of any given project gives the CRM a solid foundation that will be more likely to withstand future challenges.
The CRM’s collaborative, consensus-based approach has attracted the support of a diverse range of community residents. A Sierra magazine article quoted a local rancher and Wise-Use activist praising the CRM, saying, “They help everybody.” The same article quoted Michael Jackson, a local environmentalist and attorney who helped start the Quincy Library Group, another collaborative effort in the watershed, as saying, “While the [CRM’s] restoration work moves slowly in terms of river miles, it has rapidly changed the politics of the community. Our opposition is now pointing to their accomplishments in restoring the damages done by cattle. That’s a step forward – maybe a more important step than restoration of the creek.” He continued, “Attorneys like me are just holding ground until cooperators like the Plumas Corporation can do their work. When they are finished, we won’t need people like me. Community success and pride will protect more habitat than any law we could write.”
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