207784 Why Act? The Roots and Potential of Precautioary Environmental Action in Three Vermont Watersheds

Monday, November 9, 2009: 8:45 AM

Edith H. Mas, PhD , President Tannery Wildlife Refuge, Wilmington, VT
As federal environmental policy moves increasingly toward relying on local communities to implement its mandates, it becomes important to study how well public policies work where implementation depends on local citizen collective action. Vermont's antidegradation water policy to protect pristine streams provides a good example of this type of implementation. In order to reclassify bodies of water in Vermont, local citizens must petition the state. This qualitative study utilizes a critical case-study design to understand what motivates individuals in three watershed communities to participate in a process of collective action named Precautionary Environmental Action (PEA).

Collective action can take many forms, and has been studied most commonly to understand large social movements. A specific model based on Alberto Melucci's framework was tested in the three cases of Cold Brook, Kidder Brook, and Nulhegan Waters, through an analysis based on individual interviews, focus groups, and a survey. The model was upheld. Results show that concerned citizens signed petitions to protect Vermont's watersheds in order to challenge development plans by the big ski corporations, condominium planners, logging companies and other commercial interests. Results demonstrate that all the elements in the conceptual model need to be present for PEA to occur successfully and for effective collective action to implement policy.

This research presents a strong argument for validating the power of an environmental policy approach based on the precautionary principle.

Learning Objectives:
Identify elements needed for successful community action to protect watersheds. Analyze elements needed for successful community action to protect watersheds.

Keywords: Water, Community

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: This research was conducted by me in obtaining my dissertation
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.