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I too really like the current agenda. I would be satisfied with the current agenda as it is but there are a few issues that I face in attempting to scale up activities on the Upper Miss. River. Perhpas it does not fit the theme of this conference but I'll throw it out here for consideration. I would suggest that it might fit under the agenda item that addresses how we change risky behavior.

In order to change behavior I think we need to place a higher priority on how we succeed or fail to fund and manage conservation projects and how we succeed or fail to market conservation. In my opinion we also need to address interpersonal skills needed by conservation practitioners. Do conservation practitioners have proper training to persuade or sell producers/landowners, are there enough practioners to do the one on one relationship building that is essential to changing behavior, is their work acknowledged and rewarded, is it a viable career path?

Perhaps more creative incentives are needed but I think the current suite would do if a larger, more highly trained "sales force" was available. People are certainly motivated by broad "socio-economic" stimulii but in my years of working with farmers, donors etc. I think the single most important factors in changing behavior is the the ability to build rapport and relationships, market ideas by demonstrating value to each individual operation etc. When I am working on a project the only stats and incentives I am worried about are those that influence the producer standing in front of me - what is their economic situation, who else influences their decision, landlord, wife, etc., what are their core beliefs? etc. etc. This cannot be determined through a statewide poll but by talking directly with the producer. While we can broadly categorize what motivates farmers and craft better policy as a result that does not go far enough. You have to figure out what each individual farmers needs are - each is unique and to change their behavior you need to think more like a salesman and less like a sociologist.

Other issues are the fact that USDA only provides funding for practices - little or no funding is available for staffing special project managers, monitoring of outcomes. If we are going to follow the advice given in MAL1 we will need to find dedicated funding for project administration and outcome monitoring. Perhaps if EPA, NRCS and USGS provided a "one stop shop" for watershed projects we would have enough watershed projects to influence water and soil at scale.

Another concern I have is the fact that special project managers are often on "soft" money and have little hope of making a career out of managing conservation projects. Little if any attention is paid to the retaining or motivating the people who go out and market conservation door to door and few are recognized when they excell at this skill. Such interpersonal skills as persistance, political savvy, persuasiveness, negotiation skills etc. are in my opinion extremely important and often (always?) overlooked when crafting strategies for getting conservation on the ground. In the conservation world our "sales" force are often the lowest paid, least experiences staff. In the business world a well trained, motivated sales force is considered essential to a companies success and they are paid accordingly. We probably will not match the financial incentives of the corporate world but we could begin to pay more attention to the "art of the deal" as we are simultaneously developing better science, better modeling tools etc.

Its late and I am rambling on a bit but these are some things I had on my mind and perhaps could be incorporated into the MAL2 agenda.

Re: Agenda with bullets by Dave DeGeusDave DeGeus, 02 Jun 2009 05:14

I like the agenda - I missed your initial discussions so please forgive me if I'm off-base or being redundant with my suggestions.

I think the keynote address really needs to set the tone, outlining the tremendous environmental challenges we're likely to face in the next decades, why we must go to landscape scale to adequately address these challenges in the short time-frame we might have available to us before our options disappear and how best to make this happen research-wise, policy-wise and implementation-wise.

With that keynote, under Why focus thinking about conservation on a landscape scale, you could also approach the issue as What can be accomplished on a landscape scale that cannot be accomplished on other scales (which I think is what you're getting at with the next bullet about what the landscape concept entails)

Under Theme 2, when dealing with agriculture, we have both owner-operators and absentee landowners (here in Illinois, 60 percent of our farmland is leased) - how will that play out? How do leasing arrangements impact behavior? Interestingly enough, the few surveys available of absentee landowners shows them to be quite conservation-minded - if you can get information to them. I also agree with Jan that economics are definitely a way to target risky behavior.

Under Theme 3, I'd broaden federal policy to include more than just the farm bill - Clean Water Act for one could have a landscape impact

Re: Agenda with bullets by Ann SorensenAnn Sorensen, 29 May 2009 20:53

I have read through the agenda. I think Themes 1 to 4 are hitting on relevant topics. They also build on each other.

With theme 2, could a bullet be added along the following:
- How does economics factor into our ability to target risky behavior?

With theme 4, bullets 1 - 3 seem best connected to the theme. Bullets 4 -7, although relevant, are not as well connected. Some other questions that are relevant in relation to theme 4:
- Can we estimate the length of time we need to invest in measurements (or monitoring) depending on the landscape scale?
- How does modeling complement measurement of conservation practices effectiveness? Does it help extend the measurement time series?
Note: I know the time lag was included in MAL I, but I think it is wise to include it in relation to measurement again.

Jan Boll

Re: Agenda with bullets by Jan BollJan Boll, 08 May 2009 23:34

Great plan. Thanks for posting this.
Dewayne

Re: Agenda with bullets by DewayneDewayne, 28 Apr 2009 22:17

Colleagues:
The critical issue I need from the Planning Committee is commentary on the adequacy of these questions for each of the main themes. I suggest you do a quick read of the entire agenda to see how the content should evolve from some basic questions to those that are very salient to our programs today. After this quick read please feel free to edit, add, or delete any materials you deem appropriate. Hopefully a consensus will emerge from all of you as you have a chance to observe this document continue to evolve as each member of the Planning Committee adds her or his edits.

The next step will be to take your document and develop a Program Committee. This Program Committee will have the difficult task of finding individuals and teams of individuals who will try and answer the questions we are developing.

Throughout this process, please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or concerns.

Agenda with bullets by PeteNowakPeteNowak, 28 Apr 2009 21:53

Testing out the system.
dj

Test thread by DewayneDewayne, 27 Apr 2009 20:11
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