Understanding the Effectiveness of the Watershed Stewards Academies in Maryland

Principal Investigator:

Dana Fisher

Start/End Year:

2014 - 2016


University of Maryland, College Park


Strategic focus area:

Resilient communities and economies



How effective are the Watershed Stewards Academies (WSAs) in Maryland at connecting to communities and protecting the environment? These academies are part of a national movement to train citizens to become Master Watershed Stewards in their communities. In Maryland, they are based on a specific model of stewardship and are currently training environmental stewards in three regions of the state. A number of other areas around the state are in the process of forming franchises. As the WSA model diffuses across the state, questions arise about how successful they are at both training stewards to achieve specific environmental goals, as well as mobilizing citizens to participate as stewards in their local communities.

Moreover, it is unclear how the WSA model adapts as it is implemented in areas with variable demographic characteristics, levels of urbanization, governmental and civic contexts, as well as different environmental needs when it comes to watershed restoration and protection. This project studies the WSAs in Maryland to understand how these academies are training citizens to steward their communities, looking specifically at the internal dynamics of each group, along with the ways these groups are connecting to their communities.


This project employs a variety of social science research methods to study the local franchises of this organization and their connections to communities in Maryland. Integrating closed-ended survey and open-ended semi-structured interview research methods, this project assesses the experience of WSA participants, analyzes how they connect to government offices, community groups, and individual volunteers, as well as determines the actual environmental effects of the Watershed Stewards Academies in each region.


Although the WSA franchises are currently creating a network of training programs for watershed stewards around the state, little is known about how effective the program is and how the program develops differently in response to the civic, environmental, and governmental contexts in which they are situated. This project assesses the effectiveness of the program in terms of its civic and environmental goals of creating nodes of civic environmental activity in communities. It will also study how these programs are responding to and working with government offices in their local communities and how these differences may contribute to the effectiveness of each program.


Related Publications:

Yagatich, W; Galli, AM; Fisher, DR. 2018. How local environmental stewardship diversifies democracy. Local Environment23(4):431 -447. doi:10.1080/13549839.2018.1428187. UM-SG-RS-2017-16.

Yagatich, W; Galli, AM; Fisher, DR. 2018. How local environmental stewardship diversifies democracy Local Environment23(4):431 -447. doi:10.1080/13549839.2018.1428187. UM-SG-RS-2017-16.

Close, S; Fisher, D; Yagatich, W; Galli, A. 2016. Evaluating the environmental effectiveness of grassroots environmental stewardship organizations in Maryland, USA. Watershed Science Bulletin:1 -8. UM-SG-RS-2016-19.

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