Here are the highlights from this presentation that was held on April 22, 2022.
About 30 people attended this public presentation of a new UBCO study that is exploring governance options for the Peachland Watershed. Attendees were welcomed on to the traditional unceded territory of the Syilx people by Indigenous educators and knowledge keepers Pamela and Grouse Barnes. Pamela provided some powerful words and stories about the importance of of the official welcome and of the the need for awareness of the Sylix people’s connection to the land and the life it supports. It was a very fitting introduction to the formal presentation by the UBCO professors.
Who Speaks for the Watershed? UBC Okanagan Researchers Study the Peachland Creek Watershed for answers.
“Whose water is it, anyhow? Who owns Peachland’s water? Who’s responsible for Peachland’s water, who should be? What say do local indigenous have in this ecosystem? Do you know who makes the decisions governing our water and watershed?
The Peachland Watershed Protection Alliance wants to know, fortunately there is currently a study focusing on just those issues and it is centered 100% in our community drinking watershed. The study covers why the Peachland watershed ecosystem is unique, this geographic area where plants, animals, and other organisms, as well as weather and landscape, work together to form a bubble of life. It also asks how this community of interacting organisms and their environment are affected by change.
Local watershed organizations and advisory groups often play a lead role in watershed governance. They do this by ensuring that all voices are heard when it comes to making important decisions. Such organizations exist in many watersheds but vary greatly in structure, goals, resources, and outcomes. In this presentation John Wagner and Rheanne Kroschinsky, UBC Okanagan, will describe the range of watershed organizations active in British Columbia and elsewhere in North America and invite the audience to discuss with them the relevance of those organizational approaches to the Peachland Creek Watershed. As part of their contribution to the UBC Okanagan Watershed Ecosystems Project, John and Rheanne will attempt to identify best practices for the design of watershed governance institutions that are inclusive of both Indigenous and settler culture values and interests, committed to the long-term ecological health of the watershed, and capable of striking a reasonable balance among the competing interests that always occur in community watersheds such as Peachland Creek.
John Wagner is a professor of environmental anthropology at the University of British Columbia Okanagan. He conducts research on human/water relations in the Okanagan Valley, the Columbia River Basin in Canada and the United States, and in Papua New Guinea. In his Columbia River Basin research, John focuses on water governance and the relationship of the Columbia River Treaty to irrigation, food security, food sovereignty and Indigenous rights. In the Okanagan Valley, he has conducted research on settler colonialism, the history of water management, and floodplain restoration as a climate change mitigation strategy. As a co-investigator for the Peachland Creek Watershed Ecosystems project, his focus is on watershed governance.
Wagner is especially interested in understanding how licensing decisions are made about watershed activities and fully recognizes that community members often feel frustrated by their lack of voice in those decisions. One approach to resolving decision-making conflicts is to invite all interested parties to the table, where they can learn from one another and develop an underlying set of principles to which they can all agree. “From a social science perspective, this has been attempted on different scales in lots of places…you bring the watershed users to the table to work together and make decisions,” Wagner said.
Involvement of Syilx area chiefs, the Okanagan Nation Alliance, and Syilx knowledge holders will be integral to the research project, as will engagement with the District of Peachland and Peachland residents, and the various government agencies mandated to make watershed decisions. The final governance model will be developed on the basis of their collective knowledge and advice to the research team. Ideally the model developed for Peachland Creek can also be applied to other community watersheds in the Okanagan region and elsewhere.
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