Delegates from 17 countries spent three weeks traveling around the United States last month, gaining an understanding of how the U.S. system of governance addresses water resources management. The tour was part of the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), the U.S. Department of State’s premier professional exchange program – and our Manager of Strategy, Tony Maas, was invited to participate. Tony joined 17 delegates from around the world in visits to Washington DC, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Seattle and Jacksonville.
The professional exchange program for current and emerging foreign leaders involved field trips, site tours, and meetings with experts working on water resources management. The group visited the Elwha River near Port Angeles, WA, where two large dams have been removed, restoring not only salmon habitat but also enhancing the values of local Indigenous peoples. A tour of the rural Black River watershed near Cleveland, OH highlighted smaller scale creek restoration projects in an agricultural landscape. Engagement with various US experts from various levels of government and non-profit organizations provided attendees a chance to learn first hand about the benefits of protecting and restoring freshwater ecosystems.
In between the scheduled itinerary stops and over meals and social outings, the 18 attendees shared stories and experiences from their home countries, learning from successes and challenges, and building lasting relationships and sparking collaborations that will impact their work for years to come.
Maas’ key observation from the trip was that so many projects and initiatives discussed on the tour connect back in some way to the U.S. Clean Water Act, and reflected on the lack of similar over-arching federal water legislation in Canada. “The Clean Water Act in the U.S. is an example of a law that had stood the test of time and drives real impact on the ground and in the water” said Maas. “It can serve as a model for Canada as we confront growing challenges related to climate change and pollution of rivers and lakes, and as we work toward building a restoration-based economy.”