“Our coastal resources are undergoing tremendous pressure as more and more people discover the joy of living and visiting coastal areas,” says Joe Farrell, a marine resource management specialist for the University of Delaware Sea Grant College Program in Lewes. “Sussex County saw almost a 40% growth in population during the ’90s, mostly in the coastal area. As more people relocate here, it becomes necessary to reduce and manage our impact on these resources.”
“Creel limits for fishermen, centralized wastewater systems for homeowners, and nutrient management plans for farmers are all ways to manage our impact,” Farrell continues. “Some resource manager has to make these decisions, and these decisions can affect people’s livelihoods or quality of life. When people’s lives are affected, they tend to want to have a say in how decisions are reached.”
On Thursday, May 16, at 7:00 p.m., at the UD College of Marine Studies in Lewes, Farrell will discuss how citizens can become more effective in assisting the decision-making process in his lecture, “The Challenge of Involving the Public in Managing Coastal Resources.” The presentation is part of the annual Ocean Currents Lecture Series, which is held once a month at the Lewes campus through September.
“There has been a nationwide trend over the last decade to involve the public in resource decision-making,” says Farrell. “Public participation, particularly including those stakeholders who are directly affected by the decision, can lead to better management decisions and stronger public acceptance, aside from being a core democratic value.”
But Farrell notes that not every decision may need public input. If the public is asked to participate in a decision-making process and the program goals are not clear, it can increase, rather than lessen, the public’s frustration or apathy. Farrell will share a list of “do’s and don’ts” of involving the public in resource decision-making and will encourage the audience to include a few of their own.
Farrell also will describe some of the programs he has developed to engage the public in resource management. For example, in 1990, he initiated the Inland Bays Citizens Monitoring Program with a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency and with the support of the Inland Bays Citizens Advisory Committee. Citizen volunteers have played a key role in gathering valuable data that assists resource managers in monitoring the health of the Inland Bays.
“The volunteers have become effective citizen observers, educators, and advocates,” says Farrell. “Their observations have led to a greater understanding of the Inland Bays. They share this information with neighbors and friends, and they serve on a variety of Inland Bays advisory committees. Knowledge is a powerful tool in the public deliberation process.”
A resident of Lewes, Farrell has a master’s degree in marine resource management from Oregon State University. Since joining Delaware Sea Grant in 1988, he has conducted programs on a wide variety of marine resource issues. He is particularly interested in developing education programs where participants can learn from the experiences of each other.
The lecture will begin at 7:00 p.m. in Room 104, Cannon Laboratory, at the Hugh R. Sharp Campus, 700 Pilottown Road, Lewes. The hour-long talk will be followed by light refreshments.
While the lecture is free and open to the public, seating is limited and reservations are required. To reserve your seat, please contact the college at (302) 645-4279.