Once a year, the Illinois River Watershed Partnership – with the help of many supporters and sponsors – hosts a conference to bring people together to talk about the issues facing our watershed today. And tomorrow. And for years to come. You see, the issues that affect our watershed are ever changing and very complex.  One might even call them wicked.

Our annual Restoration of Our Rivers conference serves to bring stakeholders together from our watershed as well as stakeholders, practitioners, and researchers from around the country to share information sources and decision-making processes can be used to balance stakeholder needs through collaborative approaches.   These make for sustainable solutions to “wicked problems”.


Crystal Bridges Museum Great Hall

 Crystal Bridges Museum Great Hall

The Restoration of Our Rivers conference held at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art focused on practical tools to preserve and restore watersheds, addressing land and water challenges.  The exquisite setting at Crystal Bridges is the perfect inspiration for tackling challenging projects that preserve and enhance the interaction between nature and man.

Richard Davis & Dr. Kent Thornton

Richard Davis and Dr. Kent Thornton

At our 2013 conference, Mark Goldsmith (Senior Director, Stormwater Compliance with Walmart Stores) facilitated a panel of experts made up of Jonathan Jones (CEO, Wright Water Engineering), Janette Monear (CEO, Texas Trees Foundation), Richard S. Davis (expert Clean Water Act Attorney) and Dr. Kent Thornton (principal Systems Ecologist, FTN Associates).

They framed their watershed protection discussion from research that described a wicked problem as “one that is difficult to solve because of incomplete, contradictory, and changing requirements”.

Jon Jones and Janette Monear

Jon Jones and Janette Monear

Wicked Problems describe many environmental challenges due to human and environmental dimensions.  Research shows that successful approaches to solving wicked problems require an intentional multi-stakeholder, participatory process.  A multi-stakeholder, participatory process is exactly what the IRWP is all about and the reason it was formed.

The IRWP’s Watershed Management Plan approved by EPA in November 2012 is a blueprint with a comprehensive, systematic application of a practical course of action that follows an adaptive cycle.


Our 2013 conference had such a rich variety of speakers from Portland, OR to Boston, MA, sharing progress and addressing “wicked problems”.

Last year’s line-up of topics and presenters included:

Todd Reeve and Holly Powers

Todd Reeve and Holly Powers

  • A Long-Term, Collective Impact Approach to Watershed-scale Change with Todd Reeve (CEO, Bonneville Environmental Foundation, Portland, Oregon) and Holly Powers (Program Officer, The Russell Family Foundation, Gig Harbor, Washington).
  • Parks, Open Space and Conservation Land Use Development with Donald H. Brandes, Jr. (Vice President, Matrix Design Group, Inc., Denver, Colorado) and Tom Martin (President, ConsultEcon, Inc., Boston, Massachusetts).

Bill RitterJr

Bill Ritter, Jr.

  • Clean Energy and Our Economic Future by Bill Ritter, Jr. (Director of the Center for the New Energy Economy (CNEE) at Colorado State University and former Colorado Governor).
  • Urban and Mixed Use Development with Marcus M. Quigley (Geosyntec, Brookline, MA).
  • Illinois River Restoration Conservation Project with Dr. Greg Jennings (Senior Water Engineer, Stantec, Inc.) and Shanon Phillips (Oklahoma Conservation Commission, Director, Water Quality Division).
  • Crystal Bridges Museum – Art and Nature with Scott Eccleston (Director of Grounds and Facilities for Crystal Bridges Museum).

Dr. Andrew Sharpley

Dr. Andrew Sharpley

  • Sustainable Agricultural Land Management Practices with Dr. Andrew Sharpley, University of Arkansas and Dr. Josh Payne, Oklahoma State University

Patti Erwin AFC

Patti Erwin

  • Smart Growth and Sustainable Urban Applications with Patti Erwin (Arkansas Forestry Commission, Urban & Community Forestry; Sarah Wrede, City of Fayetteville, AR) and Bill Robison (City of Tulsa).

These presentations can be accessed on the IRWP website at http://www.irwp.org/education-and-outreach/annual-conference/

Scott Eccleston Delia Haak Bill Ritter Jr. Dianne Carroll

Scott Eccleston, Dr. Delia Haak,  Bill Ritter, Jr. and Dianne Carroll

Please join us for the 2014 Restoration of Our Rivers Conference on Oct. 2-3, 2014.   This year we have another fantastic lineup of water quality experts, agricultural producers, and conservation professionals coming together to discuss the ways in which we can collaboratively tackle our watershed’s “wicked problems.”


2014 Restoration of Our Rivers Conference agenda

We will continue the important communication and planning that is so important to everyone and every living thing in our watershed.  Relationships within watershed and natural resource protection and environmental quality, human well-being and economic development are complex, “wicked problems”.

We seek to better understand the role of human innovation, flexibility, and adaptability in sustainable practices of land and natural resource uses and the relationships that maintain and enhance ecological processes required for quality of life and well being.

 Related Posts:

Water Proof:  Watershed Management for the Future

Water Proof:  Four Ways to Protect Your Groundwater


Additional Resources:

IRWP Watershed Management Plan

Restoration of Our Rivers Conference Presentations