"Environmental Participation as a Gateway to Civic Engagement? The Case of the Watershed Stewards Academies"
William Yagatich and Dana R. Fisher
Saturday, August 22, 2:30-4:10, Section 082- Open Refereed Roundtable Session I
The primary research objectives of this research are to measure how effective the Watershed Stewards Academies (WSAs) of Maryland are at reaching out to and mobilizing members of their respective local communities and protecting the environment. The WSAs are of interest because they are part of a national movement to train and educate volunteers from local communities as Master Watershed Stewards. Stewards are given the training and support to act as leaders in their own communities to facilitate projects that improve storm water runoff and the overall health of the watershed, in addition to serving as an educator and source of information to their neighbors. The WSAs operate within geographies composed of one or several counties, which allows each franchise to tailor their management and structure to their respective areas as leaders and organizers see fit. The freedom of organization results in each WSA having the same mission, the training of Master Watershed Stewards, but differing civic and government partnerships, compositions of leadership, and communities of varying demographics and levels of urbanization.
The initial stage of this research project, accomplished within the last year, evaluates the first of the above research objectives, that is, how effective are the WSAs at reaching out to and mobilizing members of local communities to participate in the Master Watershed Steward training? This was accomplished through an online survey, composed of questions focused on demographic characteristics, civic engagement, environmental restoration activities, how respondents heard about the WSAs, and with whom they attended WSA events and courses.
Dana R. Fisher (@Fisher_DanaR) is the Director of the Program for Society and the Environment and Professor of Sociology at the University of Maryland- College Park. She researches multiple aspects of environmental decision-making at the PSE. Currently, she is involved in a number of efforts to study the connections between environmentalism and democracy. In all cases, these projects focus on environmental stewardship—focusing on New York City, Philadelphia, Washington, DC and comparing across these cities. In addition, she continues to study the US climate policy network.