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High stakes for the Great Lakes

Geographers explore how to find - and kee From the boundary waters of the United States and Canada to the vast Cuyahoga River watershed to the Milwaukee Estuary, there are 43 Areas of Concern (AOC) surrounding the Great Lakes. Each is in need of remedial clean-up to address numerous beneficial use impairments that impact humans and wildlife alike. The AOCs on the U.S. side of the border are overseen by the Environmental Protection Agency, but at the ground level, clean-up efforts fall to local stakeholders. The question is, how do you find, recruit, and keep those stakeholders? Associate Professor of Geography Ryan Holifield offered some answers in a recent article, titled “Recruiting, integrating, and sustaining stakeholder participation in environmental management: A case study from the Great Lakes Areas of Concern.” Published in the Journal of Environmental Management, the research grew out of surveys that he and co-author Katie Williams, Holifield’s former graduate student, sent to various administrators of Great Lakes AOCs to determine what methods work best to establish and keep stakeholder participation. The hunt for stakeholders A stakeholder is anyone who has a stake in the outcome of a particular AOC: “State, local, and municipal or county governments, sewage districts, or port facilities in some cases,” said Holifield. “It would also include businesses that are affected by areas of concern. Local environmental organizations are a big stakeholder in a lot of these Areas of Concern.” Ryan Holifield

However, identifying stakeholders isn’t the problem.

“One of the findings was that the question of how we recruit active stakeholders, and getting people to be active and stay active over time, is possibly a bigger challenge than identifying them in the first place,” Holifield said. Stakeholders from the industrial world are often tough to recruit, for example. Holifield and Williams’ research showed that many groups had trouble convincing businesses to participate in environmental projects, even though they often have the biggest stake in their outcome. Some of the businesses may have even been responsible for the contamination of certain environmental sites to begin with. Another problem is that there is no “one size fits all” approach to encouraging participation. The size and scope of AOCs vary wildly. The Milwaukee Estuary Area of Concern, for example, is defined

4 • IN FOCUS • May, 2019

Profile for University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

In Focus Vol. 9, No. 5