Groups involved with natural resource management on the Kenai Peninsula were in Homer Thursday. The Homer Soil and Water Conversation District brought individuals together to ensure everyone is working well together and to discuss a potential collaborative project.
There are plenty of organizations that deal with natural resources on the peninsula. And they work at different levels… the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, CIRI and groups like Homer Soil and Water Conservation District. That’s just a few of them. Matt Steffy is a natural resources specialist with Homer Soil and Water. He says gathering all the groups into one room helps build partnerships.
"What we're hoping to find ... is who has overlapping resources and ... how can we be helping each other out," said Steffy.
Steffy says as the conversations happen, there’s a sort of Ven diagram that appears. But the meetings aren’t just about finding more efficient ways to provide services. It’s also a way to come up with collaborative projects. Steffy says one example is a partnership with The Natural Resources Conversation Council. He says culverts were too high off the water in some areas and preventing salmon from moving upstream to their spawning grounds.
Steffy says one of the concerns that kept coming up during the first part of the meeting was permitting issues and finding out where the information overlaps are. The conversations at the gathering have a trickle-down effect that helps the person who walks in and doesn’t know where to turn on any given issue. Steffy says depending on the project, there could be a lot of paperwork. He says the Kenai River Center has become a good example of how these collaborative efforts pay off.
"So you turn one application in for a project that your'e doing and ... they put your information out and all these different government agencies ... are able to sign off on a permit for a project," he said.
The meeting also brought up a potential partnership with MAPP, or Mobilizing for Action Through Planning and Partnership. The organization works to improve community health on the southern peninsula. Kyra Wagner is with Sustainable Homer, but also collaborates with that group. She says having an environmental health component makes sense and is something she’d like to see. Wagner pointed out the group can help keep track of programs for any collaborative agencies and that information could possibly be used to help secure grants.
Steffy says having an unexpected opportunity like working with MAPP come up during the meeting is why the gatherings are important. That’s when ideas are thrown around. He says the agencies will stay in touch and the Local Working Group will meet again next year.