|About Us : : History|
The Butte Creek Watershed Conservancy (BCWC) was formed in September 1995 to encourage the preservation and management of the Butte Creek watershed through watershed-wide cooperation between landowners, water users, recreational users, conservation groups, and local, state and federal agencies. The mission statement of the BCWC reflects that dedication:
“The Butte Creek Watershed Conservancy was established to protect, restore, and enhance the cultural, economic, and ecological heritage of the Butte Creek watershed through cooperative landowner action.”
The BCWC received non-profit 501(c)3 status in November of 1996. Shortly thereafter, the BCWC prepared a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to create a Butte Creek Watershed Management Strategy. The MOU established a voluntary and cooperative agreement among 24 signatories to work together in a watershed planning process. It is the BCWC’s belief thatstakeholders working cooperatively have the greatest potential for streamlining resource management and minimizing conflict between landowners, water users, government agencies, and conservation groups.
Another effort has been undertaken in the lower portion of Butte Creek - The Lower Butte Creek Project. Stakeholders working with Ducks Unlimited Inc., Jones & Stokes, Inc., and California Waterfowl Association have focused on developing mutually beneficial and acceptable alternatives to improve fish passage in the Butte Sink, Butte Slough, and Sutter Bypass sections of Butte Creek while maintaining the viability of agriculture, seasonal wetlands, and other habitats.
In 1996, the BCWC enlisted the services of the California State University, Chico Department of Geography and Planning to apply for State, Federal, and private grants for the development of a Watershed Management Strategy. Through the generosity of the US Fish & Wildlife Service, CALFED, National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, Bureau of Reclamation, and the Metropolitan Water District, the BCWC set in motion the creation of the Butte Creek Watershed Management Strategy.
Through media releases, flyers, and other public outreach efforts, stakeholders representing landowners, timber interests, urban representatives, agriculture, recreational groups, irrigation districts, conservation organizations, waterfowl clubs, and local, state, and federal agencies were invited to participate in an initial General Public Stakeholder Meeting. From this meeting, the nomination of individuals with diverse interests and representing different reaches of Butte Creek resulted in the creation of the Watershed Advisory Committee (WAC). While WAC participation fluctuated throughout much of the initial process, attendance was especially strong and diverse during the development of the Watershed Management Strategy. Additionally, agency personnel and others with distinct expertise were invited to serve as members to the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC).
For further input, stakeholders were invited to general membership meetings to participate in a scoping process (6 four-hour meetings) to identify watershed Issues and Concerns for prioritization. These issues were categorized into fourteen groups, and from these, the WAC generated a list of fundamental issues and concerns. The issues and concerns identified by stakeholders and refined by the WAC are not science-based. They reflect the opinions of individuals involved in the watershed planning process at that point and time. The issues were defined as follows:
Since the original scoping process, WAC members and resource agency representatives have agreed that many of the top 10 stakeholder issues and concerns as worded do not accurately reflect the exact nature or source of potential problems in the watershed. Additionally, while many of the issues do remain pressing, efforts have been undertaken to mitigate others making them less pertinent today. Nonetheless, the issues and concerns as defined during the stakeholder scoping process provide a good template for developing effective community-based strategies to enhance the economic, ecological, and cultural heritage of the Butte Creek watershed.
While the scoping process moved forward, work began on the Existing Conditions Report. The Existing Conditions Report is intended to accumulate into one document all relevant descriptive data related to the physical, natural, cultural, and economic resources of the Butte Creek watershed. The Existing Conditions Report, like the Watershed Management Strategy, is designed to function as a living document. Periodically, both documents will be revisited, revised, and updated. The most current version of each document can be found on the BCWC’s website at http://www.buttecreekwatershed.org. These documents should be used together, in order for the reader to understand the many complex issues within the Butte Creek watershed.
Following the completion of the Existing Conditions Report, a vision statement was adapted, as well as ten guiding principles to help steer the planning process. The vision statement for the watershed sees healthy fish populations, diverse biological habitats, recreation opportunities, reduced fire hazard, reliable and clean water supply, clean air, reduced flood damage, and a respect for private property rights. The guiding principles to achieve the vision are more specific and deal with natural resource management (fish, wildlife, erosion, flooding and fire), social issues (recreational impacts), coordination, and education. Project staff, working with TAC members, drafted Watershed Management Strategy goals and objectives for WAC review, refinement, and acceptance. The final goals and objectives were developed to provide an adaptive management framework for reconciling the Issues and Concerns identified early in the stakeholder scoping process, but they also took into account information recently made available in the development of the Existing Conditions Report. This strategy lists straightforward stewardship projects and actions that can be accomplished with a high probability of success and that will help maintain the health of the Butte Creek watershed.
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