- Notes from the Field
The authors do an excellent job of developing their education–public partnership models in this article. Differentiating between the purely analytical efforts of the monitoring network model, the curriculum-based focus of the experiential model, the community-needs approach of the service learning model, and the depth of educational resources for broad-spectrum research available through the university research institutes is of particular importance to field practitioners. As a result, I have learned that we at Colorado Springs Utilities have been involved with several of these programs and networks over the past few years. It also made me recognize that there are other opportunities we could develop or enhance to our common benefit.
In the 100-plus-year water-supply history of our organization, we have developed the habit of partnering with other governmental agencies (e.g., federal, state, local, and other utilities) in a wide range of efforts, activities, and projects. In the early years, the primary focus was aimed at water resource development and watershed protection (primarily through closure). Although those programs continue, there has been additional focus in recent years on the broader concepts of watershed natural resource management. Again, other governmental agency partners have been central to planning and management activities. In a recent planning process to develop a common vision for management and protection of the vast resources on Pikes Peak, acknowledging the reliance of several local communities upon the water resources there, sixteen agencies were involved. There were also ninety citizens of various backgrounds and interests who took part in the nearly three-year process. The educational community was represented as part of this volunteer citizen body, rather than as members of the core agency planning team. Two graduate students independently took part and successfully developed their own thesis or dissertation around the overall effort (loosely an experiential project-based program). There are other examples of independent, experiential programs that Springs Utilities has facilitated (usually by granting access to otherwise closed watershed lands), but not taken an active part in. Recently there has been a more concerted effort to partner with educational institutions in addressing watershed management issues, as detailed by the authors. [End Page 338]
Currently, Springs Utilities is underwriting a long-term research program through the Catamount Center for Geography in the Southern Rockies to study the ecological effects of accelerated forest management/wildfire mitigation activities (mastication) on utilities-owned watershed lands on Pikes Peak. The center's affiliation with local institutions of higher learning is already proving valuable to this research effort, which clearly falls within the definition of the service learning program model. Springs Utilities' staff worked closely with the center's staff to agree on the list of key indicators to be studied as measures of both positive and negative impacts of the management/mitigation work.
In the area of public education and outreach, Springs Utilities has worked in recent years on several levels: K–12 classroom programs are usually centered on water sources and delivery or water conservation, but also include career talks at the high school level; college classroom programs on a variety of resource topics; and customer education through demonstration gardens, media spots, and organized facility and watershed tours. This involves networking with many different educational groups through dedicated and supporting utilities' staff.
This article is useful to practitioners like me because it defines program models and network opportunities as perceived by the educational community. Perhaps the authors could develop a summary in the form of a pamphlet, localized with an insert for educational institution contacts, to be distributed to area watershed managers for initiating dialogue.
Vic Ecklund, Jr., CF, Chief Forester and Natural Resources Planner, has been with Colorado Springs Utilities for nearly 35 years working in the watershed management planning arena. During that time, he has been a part of various water project planning and permitting teams including the Homestake Project and the proposed Jimmy Camp Creek Reservoir near Colorado Springs. Also, he has coordinated the development and implementation of a forest management plan for Colorado Springs watershed lands on Pikes Peak, assisted in the...