ICS Helps Launch New Babbitt Center

ICS Helps Launch New Babbitt Center

The intimate connection between land and water is often discussed in academic circles but not well integrated into land use and water management policy and practice at the local level. The Lincoln Institute of Land Policy (LILP) and the Sonoran Institute (SI) asked ICS to help change that. In 2016, ICS was commissioned to guide the launch of a new water center and a cooperative, joint-venture program in the Colorado River Basin. That effort resulted in the launch of Lincoln Institute’s Babbitt Center for Land and Water Policy, announced on May 2, 2017, and a LILP/SI joint venture—Resilient Communities and Watersheds—focused on integrating land use and water policy at the local level in the Colorado River Basin.

“It’s been said that water is the new oil, and if we want to ensure that future generations have adequate supplies, we have to understand the intimate connection between land and water,” said George W. “Mac” McCarthy, President and CEO of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy (LILP). ICS Principal Scott Campbell added: “Around the globe, there is a fundamental lack of integration between land-use planning and water management; yet land is the medium through which our water resources are managed—knowingly or unknowingly, wisely or unwisely, sustainably or without regard for the future. Most all of our water problems are land-use based.”

The Center, which will be based in Phoenix, is named for Bruce Babbitt, former Arizona governor, Secretary of the Interior under President Bill Clinton, and longtime board member of LILP. Jim Holway, former director of the LILP/SI joint Western Lands and Communities program and former assistant director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources, will serve as the Center’s first director.

“I am honored to be associated with this initiative and vision,” said Bruce Babbitt. “The Lincoln Institute has emphasized the importance of land and land policy in addressing the world’s toughest problems, and the stewardship of water resources is at the top of the list. We all need to be aware of the connection between water and land.” “It’s a two-way street,” added McCarthy. “How we plan and use land has an impact on water, and water availability has an increasing impact on how we can use land. We seek to bridge these two worlds to better meet the needs of people, agriculture, and nature.”

The Lincoln Institute is a private operating foundation whose mission is to be a leading center for the study of land policy and land-related tax policy throughout the world. The mission of the Sonoran Institute, which serves the Intermountain West, is to connect people and communities with the natural resources that nourish and sustain them. LILP and SI have partnered for 11 years assisting western communities in applying pioneering approaches to the challenges associated with growth, economic development, climate change, and natural resource management.

State of the Rockies Kicks off with ICS Keynote

State of the Rockies Kicks off with ICS Keynote

ICS Principal Scott Campbell kicked off the 2015-2016 Colorado College State of the Rockies Project, The Scales of Western Water, as its keynote speaker. Campbell christened the thematic undertaking by examining landscape-scale approaches local, state, and national conservation groups are taking with respect to river management—approaches that attempt to holistically address the needs of cities, agriculture, and nature.

His talk, Surface Tensions: Large Landscape Conservation and the Future of America’s Rivers, shows how these approaches embody a radical change in thinking about rivers—from the 20th century belief that harnessing and controlling flow was in the best interest of society (an idea that emerged following the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and the subsequent national Flood Control Act of 1928) to our 21st century scientific understanding of the importance of natural flow variability in river systems.

Campbell shows how flood control in the Mississippi River and its tributaries reversed sedimentation regimes that, over thousands of years, helped build the Mississippi Delta. With that reversal came the loss of delta lands—more than 2,000 square miles sinking into the Gulf of Mexico since the 1930s—and the greater susceptibility of cities like New Orleans to storm surges precipitated by tropical storms and hurricanes.

Underscoring how ill-equipped we are to fully understand and appreciate the economic value of river ecosystem services such as sedimentation processes, Campbell highlights how the 500 lives and 130,000 homes lost to the Flood of 1927 pale in comparison to the 800,000 housing units and 1,833 lives lost in Hurricane Katrina—a hurricane whose devastating effects were in part due to the disappearance of the Mississippi Delta as a natural storm surge barrier.

He then goes on to examine how the increasing effectiveness of land and water conservation groups—combined with better scientific understanding, the ability to voluntarily bank water in storage facilities to create pulse flows, and new technical tools such as engineered sediment diversions—offers promise to restoring America’s rivers…not at a localized scale that has no systemic impact, but at a basin-wide, watershed scale.