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Buy-in at the local level is critical for the overall success of the restoration project; residents are the primary users of the river and are thus invested in the long-term care and maintenance of restored areas. For example, residents and regular users of the river can keep the areas cleared of trash, report cutting and burning of trees, and ensure that local governments maintain recreation sites.
To achieve wide-spread participation on many levels, Sonoran Institute has continually refined its outreach strategies and distributed materials to the public, conducted meetings with community leaders, advertised on local forums, held tree-planting workshops, and presented project information to schools and communities. Sonoran Institute has also met with a wide variety of organizations, including the State of Baja California North, the municipal government of Mexicali, and local institutions such as governing bodies, businesses, irrigation modules, schools, non-governmental organizations, and local residents and producers.
Such interactions with stakeholders have provided Sonoran Institute with key information regarding community river usage and local perceptions of the river and the Restoration Project, helping to shape project goals and develop methods to achieve them. For example, community members have voiced concern about the lack of shade in recreational areas along the river. At one time, streamside vegetation included a mix of cottonwood, mesquite, and willow trees, providing wildlife habitat, food, and shade. The majority of vegetation is now salt cedar, an invasive plant that not only chokes out native species, but also grows so densely that areas have become impassable and unusable by people. Community groups and schools are participating in clearing and replanting native species in restoration sites, increasing plant diversity and recreational opportunities.
To date, Sonoran Institute has educated or trained over 5,330 people on the Colorado River Delta ecosystem and restoration efforts. Fourteen groups have joined the Adopt-The-River Program including school, community, government, and international groups which have participated in restoration projects. Outreach efforts have also resulted in the municipal government leading the effort to secure federal land management concessions in support of conservation and restoration, including water rights for the Restoration Site.
To learn more and get involved, read about the Adopt-The-River Program.