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Salmon, Clean Water, and Indigenous Science: Facing Inequities in Multi-Level Water Governance in the Mid-Klamath

Authors: Sibyl Diver*, Stanford University, Melissa V. Eitzel, UC Santa Cruz, Susan Fricke, Karuk Tribe Water Quality Programs
Topics: Water Resources and Hydrology, Indigenous Peoples, Natural Resources
Keywords: water governance, Indigenous science, Indigenous knowledge, collaborative governance, Klamath River, Karuk Tribe, multi-level governance, resilience, decolonizing natural resource management, social network analysis, Indigenous research methodologies
Session Type: Paper
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Water governance spans political boundaries, which often requires cross-jurisdictional management solutions to coordinate and negotiate solutions across multiple institutions and scales. Much scholarship has been devoted to understanding multi-level water governance involving local, state, and federal authorities. What is often overlooked, however, is the role that Indigenous peoples and their respective governments play in restructuring contemporary multi-level water governance arrangements. This paper discusses research conducted in collaboration with the Karuk Tribe, which considers how tribal managers are leveraging polycentric governance arrangements (where decision-making power is shared among multiple centers of authority) to reorganize Klamath water governance networks.

By combining ethnographic and social network methodologies, we specifically consider the challenges and opportunities that arise from tribal engagement in a wide range of water quality governance forums. On the one hand, working through devolved, collaborative governance spaces requires significant labor from tribal managers, who engage with over 250 different organizations (i.e., regional, state, federal agencies and non-governmental entities) in order to effectively participate in water quality science and policy decision-making. On the other hand, when engaging across many different levels of governance authority, tribal managers can gain direct access to additional sources of information, funding, and authority, in order to forward Indigenous self-determination initiatives outside of federal processes. These findings raise important concerns around equitable distribution of resources in water governance arrangements affecting Indigenous lands and waters.

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