One of the areas used as a model for developing the process, resources, community engagement and knowledge transfer is the region surrounding the Spokane – Coeur d’Alene transportation corridor (SCC). Examples of environmental challenges can be found in the region’s surface and groundwater quality and quantity, which are threatened by the region’s rapidly urbanizing land use pattern and by climatologically driven impacts from reduced snowpack, drought, and wildfire. The regulatory frameworks governing water operate at many scales and can be difficult to navigate for effective collaborative regional management, which must reach across local, state, and federal jurisdictional boundaries and disparate socio-political and economic infrastructures as well as across the divides of socio-political status, cultural differences, and historic legacies. To help local stakeholders of the SCC understand the relationships between human dimensions, such as policy, sociology, culture, and economics, and biophysical systems such as hydrology and ecology, the University of Idaho and Washington State University have developed a joint research and education program to study these issues and potential impacts of different decisions in a local context. Lessons learned from this initiative can then be applied to additional regions throughout the West.
The SCC program is being designed to identify areas where university resources can provide important knowledge for outreach and education. The growth pressures faced by SCC stakeholders offer a valuable opportunity for the universities to provide resources and research that can facilitate increased understanding of the effects of urbanization and development on local concerns such as water quality, economic development, and land use change. A large group of actors and interests is being assembled to provide regional guidance regarding the university’s roles in this process. It includes elected local, state, and tribal government officials, planners, economic development interests, state and federal agencies, citizen interest groups, and many other interested parties concerned about the future of the region’s social, economic, and natural resources.
The report (Planning for Climate Change in the West
) by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy and the National Academy of Sciences (NRC 1996) publication on Understanding Risk
acknowledge the critical role of local planners in confronting challenges posed by climate change. These reports also address the intermountain west’s many political, cultural, demographic, and geographic factors that can be barriers to innovation and effectiveness. Mitigation and adaptation can best be accomplished if implemented on the ground, locally. As stated in the Lincoln Institute report, an array of smart growth strategies, with an emphasis on land use and transportation policies, may double with climate solutions leading to more resilient communities: building codes and standards, compact mixed-use development, transportation alternatives, distributed and renewable energy, water resource consumption and planning, preservation of open space and agriculture, and mitigation of wildfire impacts. The universities hope to use the resources available in many of their outreach programs to assist the SCC stakeholders in developing solutions like these with facilitation, education, and information. At WSU, continued development will occur through the Center for Environmental Research, Education and Outreach (CEREO) and particularly the integrated focus on Water, Atmospheric and Human Dimension dynamics, and at UI through Waters of the West, the Building Sustainable Communities Initiative Bioregional Planning program, and a new office for Urbanization Dynamics.