With water resources in the western United States stretched to a breaking point, due to over-allocation, sustained drought, and population growth, the National Drought Resilience Partnership (NDRP) worked with the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership to bring nearly 40 diverse stakeholders together at the White House Drought Symposium last week. Participants discussed the federal government’s role in building drought resilience into our water management systems, as well as steps that federal agencies should take to forestall future drought crises.
“Last week’s symposium underscored the importance and value of addressing difficult issues, like the sustained droughts in the West, collaboratively and constructively,” said Doug Robotham, water policy director at The Nature Conservancy. “Symposium participants from a diversity of perspectives freely exchanged ideas and solutions, which gives hope that we can meet the needs of people, irrigated agriculture and the environment if we truly work together.”
“A common theme discussed at the symposium is the need to focus federal actions in ways that reduce risk, create flexibility, and improve reliability across entire watersheds,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “That kind of approach will ensure that we have more options available to us when drought occurs, so we aren’t sacrificing the water needed for healthy species or risking farmers’ livelihoods. We are all in this together, and we need solutions that integrate benefits across sectors and preserve working lands and functioning habitat.”
The NDRP agreed to produce a compendium of ideas generated by symposium participants. Sportsmen are calling on the NDRP to continue this dialogue and identify action items, like the advancement of widely-supported conservation and efficiency measures to meet water demands while protecting and restoring healthy river flows.
“Extreme drought conditions present unique challenges for the management of fish and wildlife populations,” said Ron Regan, executive director of the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies. “Our state fish and wildlife agencies are already stepping up to address the effects of current drought conditions on our nation’s wildlife and ecosystems. We look forward to increased collaboration with our federal agency partners to build the tools and capacity that will be needed in order to address the effects of current and future drought crises.”
Sportsmen’s groups are already using federal programs, in partnership with state and local government agencies, farmers, ranchers, and the private sector, to conserve water and preserve ecosystem services. Examples of these projects can be found here.
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