• watershed management;
  • public participation;
  • surface water;
  • Oregon watershed groups;
  • collaborative decision making

ABSTRACT: Collaborative watershed groups have formed at a significant rate throughout the United States in the last decade. Data on these groups, however, has been largely anecdotal and lacking in rigorous examination of the relationship between group formation, membership, process, and group effectiveness. Using a mail survey, Oregon watershed group participants were asked to identify who initiated the formation of the group, how efficiently the group formed, how the group determines membership, what decision making method the group uses, and how members perceive the group's effectiveness. Findings indicated that a majority believe that, because of their participation in a watershed group, they better understand issues in the watershed and the perspectives of others, but less than half believe that relationships with government decision makers or physical conditions in the watershed have improved. Members of citizen initiated groups rated their groups higher than government initiated groups on addressing difficult or controversial issues. Members of groups that use consensus responded most positively on whether the group gives fair consideration to dissenting opinions. Overall, groups with restricted membership systems rated themselves lowest on involving key decision making groups, timeliness in addressing issues, and overall effectiveness. These results raise concerns about this type of group membership system.