CORVALLIS - A statewide training program offered through Oregon State University for people interested in protecting or restoring streams and watersheds has now helped more than 500 people gain expertise on these issues.
It also is gaining national attention for its efforts and will begin more statewide training sessions this fall.
This initiative, called the Watershed Stewardship Education Program, provides instruction on watershed principles and management and offers examples in a variety of land-use types. It's mainly for people who volunteer with Oregon's watershed councils, but is also geared toward individuals and other groups interested in these topics. Its success has attracted inquiries from at least four other states that hope to establish similar programs.
"This program touches on just about everything," said Jim Castle of Marion County. "My new confidence and understanding of watershed processes has prepared me for a leadership role in my watershed council."
This program delivers eight basic training sessions, ranging from water quality monitoring to restoring fish habitat and working together to create successful groups. The programs are offered regionally, to such audiences as watershed council members, staff members of soil and water conservation districts, foresters, agricultural producers, teachers and other groups or individuals.
Participants who choose to attend all eight training sessions and complete a 30-40 hour project become "master watershed stewards," who can then serve as points of contact for local residents, communities and watershed councils.
This program began in Oregon's coastal areas and has since expanded to Marion, Lincoln, Jackson, Josephine, Linn, Benton, Lane, Union, Curry, Clackamas, and Columbia counties. Regional programs are hosted by OSU Extension agents in cooperation with watershed councils and other groups.
The program is operated by OSU Extension and Oregon Sea Grant, in partnership with the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board and Oregon Forest Resources Institute. A 17-chapter publication titled "Watershed Stewardship: A Learning Guide" is offered at a reduced price of $10 at trainings, and available to the public for $32 through OSU Extension and Experiment Station Communications, 422 Kerr Administration, OSU, Corvallis, Ore., 97331-2119; or at 541-737-2513.