USA – Mexico Twinning takes off

USA – Mexico Twinning takes off

An exciting, productive and mutually-beneficial USA-Mexico partnership is currently underway through the IRF’s Twinning Program. After winning the Thiess International Riverprize in 2012, watershed groups in the Willamette River basin in Oregon, USA, initiated a Twinning partnership with the Rio Laja – the largest basin in the state of Guanajuato, Mexico.

Through peer exchange and collaborative planning, groups from both watersheds are building a rich understanding of the challenges and opportunities in each basin, and exploring ways to work together to achieve better outcomes for rivers, ecosystems and communities.

In March 2016, representatives from the Willamette visited the Laja basin. Hosted by regional NGOs, they met with natural resources agency staff to learn about existing management and protection policies and projects in the Laja. The Willamette representatives returned from the exchange with new community engagement and restoration techniques to implement in their own basin, as well as ideas for how to assist the Laja partners in their work and long-term strategies.

In August and December 2016, the groups exchanged representatives for peer-to-peer learning in each basin, visiting different types of restoration projects. Partners had a chance to dig deeper, share specific techniques and methods in river restoration and learn about critical community elements such as local native plant nurseries and citizen monitoring. With this momentum came the opportunity to share the Willamette-Laja twinning story at two large conferences: IRF’s International Riversymposium and Within Our Reach, the major biennial river restoration conference in the Willamette Basin. Since then, the partnership has been exploring basin connections with migratory bird habitat, gravel pit restoration, and Latino youth engagement.

The Laja and Willamette partners are planning another exchange for the first week of June, 2017. This time, a group from the Laja will visit the Willamette watershed, where part of the exchange will focus on supporting the Laja in developing a basin-wide initiative with shared goals and a common vision for watershed health. Currently, there are several NGO’s and agencies partnering in the Laja for restoration, but a more coordinated “collective impact” approach will help align efforts and resources to have greater impact. Through the development of this Laja Initiative and collective strategy, the Willamette hopes to assist the partners with the development of a high-impact, high-visibility collaborative restoration effort that will be positioned to attract new funders and community audiences. The Willamette-Laja partnership hopes to fundraise for this and other joint efforts in late 2017 and into 2018.

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