If you’re gonna adapt your locality and all, you better know where you are in relation to how water drains into, through and beyond your community. This is your watershed. For some of us it’s a lot more recognizable than for others.

Thanks to WorldChanging I’ve been turned on to Inforain, a source of topgraphical watershed mapping for the Pacific Northwest. I was actually surprised a bit by how their map of my local watershed wrapped around the topography of the Marin Headlands.

Inforain of the Mt. Tamalpais watershed

One of the smartest things members of a local community can do is to learn about the environment that supports them. Sure, if you live in the midst of a city surrounded by built-up suburbs, it’s easy to forget that you have any relationship to an environment, at least to one recognizable as “natural.” I’m lucky (well, I pay for it) to live in a place where natural habitat has been fiercely preserved going back to the mid-1930’s. Marin County has kept as much of its land undeveloped – some as parkland, some as public open space, some as agricultural land trust, and 21,000 acres as the county’s watershed, managed by the Marin Municipal Water District.

The MMWD organized the first of what I hope will be at least an annual public symposium and I attended it today. It ran from 8:30AM to 4:30PM with breaks and a box lunch. The experts who presented represented a wide range of scientists and naturalists, speaking on topics from endangered local species to invasive species to wildfire danger and biological history. Here’s how the announcement of the event began, on the MMWD Web page:

To some, Mt. Tamalpais is simply a scenic backdrop to a busy modern life. To others, however, it is the ecological heart of a vast natural world in which we make our home. For those, an urgent question is, how healthy is that heart? Invasive plants, the constant risk of wildfire, and now climate change are threatening the health of Mt. Tamalpais at a faster pace than ever before.

As the single largest landholder on Mt. Tamalpais, the Marin Municipal Water District is charged with sustainably managing this natural resource while providing its customers with reliable, high-quality water. One of the key steps in meeting those responsibilities is the development of a new vegetation management plan for Mt. Tamalpais and other watershed lands. A careful examination of the current state of the mountain, and an examination of the threats facing it, is essential to the development of the new vegetation management plan and the purpose of a day-long symposium taking place next month. On Friday, April 11, natural resources specialists will come together to focus on the remarkable biological richness of Mt. Tamalpais and the challenges to MMWD as it strives to maintain the mountain’s ecological health.

For any location where there is treasured natural environment, closely tied to one’s living experience, such a gathering of experts brings the amazing perspective of people who look more deeply at that environment than you do. Or whose professions are to understand interdependencies that you’re not aware of. It’s true that for us, the water district is the heart of where we live. I’m sure many other places have such natural hearts that must be known and protected.

I’ll write more about the specific presentations in following posts.