In a recent study published in the Journal of Soil and Water Conservation, a team of researchers led by the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign investigated state-level strategies meant to address nutrient reduction in the Gulf of Mexico which still exhibit massive hypoxic (oxygen-deficient) dead zones. This study holds the potential to help us better understand conservation efforts supported by local governments.
This study originated from a 2011 memo sent by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) outlining a framework for each state whose waters flow into the Mississippi River to decrease their nutrient load. Now, this team of researchers hope to see how these states have responded to this memo.
"States really took advantage of the policy window opened by the EPA memo and its directive to create nutrient reduction strategies at the state level. After 2011, when groups started meeting, there was a lot of energy across the region to bring people together and try to come up with innovative new solutions. Ten years later, that energy is more dispersed. So, utilizing that policy window is a key lesson for other multi-state planning processes," says Dr. Chloe Wardropper, who is an assistant professor of natural resource policy in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and lead author of the study. "Planning processes might seem boring, but they are one of the most important ways that democracy functions and they can significantly impact policies that are developed."
The researchers also discovered several states seemed to be more motivated to strategize nutrient reduction in their local water supplies than in the distant Gulf of Mexico.
"Roughly 40% of the land area in the continental United States drains to the Mississippi River. It is a huge watershed and hard for people to connect their actions in the Upper Midwest to negative impacts far away in the Gulf of Mexico," said Dr. Ken Genskow, who is a professor of environmental planning and policy at the University of Wisconsin Madison, and a co-author on the study.
In the end, the researchers concluded that the initial 2011 memo by the EPA did achieve a certain measure of success and the researchers recommended this policy can be used as a model for other states, as well.
Sources: Journal of Soil and Water Conservation
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