This is a very long, and well worth reading, article by Sherry Devlin in Treesource about the Flagstaff effort, Forests to Faucets, and Feather River efforts in California. Below are couple of excerpts- feel free to post other excerpts of interest in the comments.
Jonathan Kusel on why California might be different from other efforts:
“One of the great frustrations of folks in the upper watersheds and those working on forests and forest health issues in California is that folks in urban areas do not make the connection between forest and watershed health, and water quality and quantity,” said Jonathan Kusel, executive director of the Sierra Institute for Community and Environment. “That’s particularly true in California because some of the water is moved so far.
“You ask the average person in Southern California where their water comes from and they’ll honestly and sincerely say, ‘The tap.’ In general, we have a pretty limited understanding of where water comes from and how far it gets moved before it comes out of the tap.”
The greater problem stems from the lack of connection the public makes between a healthy forest and a healthy watershed, Kusel said. “We have tried for well over two decades to help Californians make that connection, with limited success.”
The Feather River provides one-quarter of California’s drinking water. The city of Los Angeles is one of the beneficiaries of the watershed.
California’s complex system of water-delivery reservoirs, aqueducts, pipes and tunnels commands much of the public’s attention, Kusel said. “It’s such an amazing system, such a complexity of conveyance facilities, that most people associate their drinking water with that infrastructure. They don’t make the same connection with the green infrastructure at the start of the delivery system.”
So while metro areas like Denver and smaller cities like Santa Fe and Flagstaff are able to convince utilities, ratepayers and voters to finance forest restoration projects, Kusel has no such buy-in from Southern California communities.
“Our accounting methods for these environmental benefits of forests are limited,” he said. “The payment for ecosystem services is, for the most part, not there. And that’s what we need. We can come up with the charges that would make a huge difference in the overall health of our forests and our watersheds, but no one wants their pocket picked.”
And on opposition to the Flagstaff project:
Opposition has been minimal, said Jessica Richardson, the Forest Service’s lead on the Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project. “I really think there will always be people who are not 100 percent in support, but even those folks are supportive of the general concept of what we are doing.”
It goes back to the bond’s 74 percent approval, said Elson. “We had the social capital. So some of the groups that might have opposed us chose not to in this case, even though there are visual impacts, steep slopes and spotted owls. There is an excitement about the project in the community.”