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Understanding and managing the social and environmental effects of exurban migration: a case study of the Upper Redwood Creek watershed in Humboldt County, California
Exurban migration and “back-to-the-land” movements bring lots of new people into rural places. This often creates social conflicts with the established residents as well as generating adverse environmental impacts. The Upper Redwood Creek watershed in northern Humboldt County is experiencing sudden growth. A rapid influx of people to this area due to the burgeoning marijuana industry has produced land management disagreements and social conflicts amongst residents. This has created the need for conflict resolution. This project focuses on efforts to develop a dialog between community members to promote cohesion and initiate a collaborative effort to help address the disagreements. I employed a locally based participatory research approach to community conflicts and land stewardship practices. I analyzed the historic and current utilization and management of private property in the Upper Redwood Creek watershed and identified several options for reducing current conflict levels. The field research illuminated concerns and conflicts the community is experiencing as well as measurable willingness to participate in a dialog concerning the management and upkeep of common, as well as private, property. Using these insights, I organized and conducted a community meeting, which resulted in specific actions including communal bulletin boards, a phone tree and informal road association. Though these specific concerns proved tractable, other concerns such as water usage and organizing a fire council, proved not amenable to collective action. Though this study is focused on the Upper Redwood Creek watershed in Humboldt County, California, the hope is that this research project will help other rural communities experiencing similar issues and their efforts to develop sustainable land use management practices.