Citizen Environmental Monitoring in Appalachia Summit a Soaring Success!
Bristol, Virginia November 4-6, 2004
The Summit, Citizen Environmental Monitoring in Appalachia: Building Environmental Monitoring Programs for Validity, Impact and Sustainability drew about 130 participants and speakers from Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Maryland, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Montana, Oregon, Ontario, Canada and the Ukraine. Participants particularly enjoyed the wonderful networking opportunities with the vast number of high capacity people attending and the breadth of information of attendees, including 39 local, regional and international experts on citizen environmental monitoring. One participant commented that the most useful part of the conference was gaining an awareness of the vast number of efforts underway and encouragement that there are success stories out there. We enjoyed 2 days of plenaries, workshops and discussion on building sustainable monitoring programs of water quality, forest health, invasive species and sustainable forest management and a day of field trips to see examples of on-the-ground water quality, invasive species, forest health and forest landowner monitoring programs.
The specific importance of the CEM Summit is many faceted. Perhaps the most important challenge in land conservation today is strengthening the positive relationship between people and the land. I am hopeful that CEM is a way to do this, says Dennis Desmond, of the Land Trust for the Little Tennessee. This was the first event of its kind to combine the years of experience in water quality monitoring with the themes of invasive species and forest health and sustainability. Participants were able to draw on the advice and lessons learned from those involved in water quality monitoring to improve existing programs and formulate ideas for starting new ones. Also, the gathering of people working throughout a wide-spread geography offered the opportunity to create a network of both experts and novices in the field of CEM to learn and discuss both the opportunities and challenges to using volunteers.
Citizen Environmental Monitoring in Appalachia Summit: Building Environmental Monitoring Programs for Validity, Impact and Sustainability
Bristol, Virginia November 4-6, 2004
What is Citizen Environmental Monitoring?
Citizen environmental monitoring (CEM) is the repeated collection of, and in some cases analysis of, environmental data by local volunteers. Ecological parameters measured by volunteers should be selected to answer questions of interest to the community and can be used for a variety of purposes including setting background levels, establishing environmental trends, raising a red flag of possible problem areas, educating communities, and influencing policy and management practices.
We aim to bring together people from across Appalachia to learn about the usefulness of citizen environmental monitoring (CEM) to promote environmental awareness in communities and achieve various stakeholders' goals. This conference will address the use of volunteers to monitor water quality as well as the presence and abundance of invasive and exotic species. In addition, discussion will focus on the role volunteers can play in monitoring forest health and measuring how sustainably the forest is being managed.
Here's an example of citizen environmental monitoring at work!
In 1996, due to a Forest Service rule that banned cutting any tree over 21 inches in diameter, the town of Lakeview, Oregon was faced with the possibility of closing the town's largest private employer, the Fremont Sawmill... Yet, the locals in Lakeview convinced environmentalists that they were willing to change their ways, and over the next few years, the newborn Lakeview Stewardship Group drew up a set of management goals for the unit. Local contractors would continue to receive preference for work in the unit, but the restoration of forests and watersheds, rather than providing logs for the mill, would have to come first. The group also agreed to let scientists closely monitor its work.
CEM summit speaker, Richard Hart , and the local science teacher, Clair Thomas, are teaching high school and college kids from Lakeview and neighboring communities how to monitor the forest's health. "The science we're using makes specialists nervous - it knocks their intellectual egos around," says Hart, who spends his summers teaching students how to detect everything from soil compaction to root rot. "They say, 'You can't teach college kids this stuff.' " But one faculty member at Washington State University has already offered each of these kids a full-ride scholarship to his forestry program.