Tara Davis

Tara Davis

Tara Davis,  USA

Tara has worked in conservation for fourteen years focusing on river restoration as well as non-profit management and fundraising. A fourth generation native to the USA’s west coast, she received a Bachelor’s Degree from Santa Clara University, California in Environmental Science and a Masters in Water Resources Management emphasizing watershed health in developing nations from the University of New Mexico in 2006. Tara completed a River Restoration Professional Certificate from Portland State University, Oregon in 2011. Tara has worked with several diverse civil society organizations including affordable housing, federal wilderness area designation, private land protection, and river restoration. After a decade as executive director of a NGO in the Thiess RiverPrize-Winning Willamette Basin, Tara has recently become an independent contractor partnering closely with multiple foundations and NGO’s to coordinate the Willamette-Laja Twinning Project.

Presentation Title: Opportunities in Cross-Cultural Exchanges: Willamette River, USA and Rio Laja, Mexico

In September 2012, the Willamette River Initiative (WRI) was honored to receive the Thiess International Riverprize. In 2014 the WRI selected a twinning basin, the Rio Laja, located in the state of Guanajuato in Central Mexico. The Laja faces similar watershed management issues such as sand and gravel extraction, wetland destruction, and water quality degradation. However, perhaps the most significant factor in choosing the Laja was for potential cross-cultural connections between the communities in the Laja and the Willamette’s own Mexican immigrant population.

This cultural connection is important considering the large Mexican migrant work force in the Willamette’s native plant nurseries and contracted forestry and riparian planting companies. The “silent heroes” of conservation in Oregon and the Willamette basin are these immigrants who often work in inclement weather conditions, with higher risk of exposure to physical and chemical hazards, and tend to be the major financial providers for the families thus dependent on year-round, stable employment.

The WRI partners have initiative conversations of cultural diversification and inclusion in their own organizations and conservation planning with a focus on local migrant Mexican communities. The Willamette-Laja partnership has sparked new partnerships with public health and policy professionals, organizations with Latino subsistence farming and socioeconomic assistance programs, and Latino youth programs in the Willamette. The diversifying twinning partnership is currently planning cross-cultural exchanges for adult professionals as well as youth interested in watershed restoration in the Willamette and Central Mexico. Agencies from the State of Guanajuato, Mexico are also poised to support this important partnership giving support for conservation and cultural exchange. An anticipated outcome is united program content including community-wide watershed education and awareness in both basins, and restoration effectiveness monitoring using migratory bird species that are shared between the two basins.

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