Baker, J.P., D.W. Hulse, S.V. Gregory, D. White, J. Van Sickle, P.A. Berger, D. Dole, and N.H Schumaker. 2004. Alternative futures for the Willamette River Basin. Ecological Applications 14(2):313-325. WED-02-048
Alternative futures analysis can inform community decisions regarding land and water use. We conducted alternative futures analysis in the Willamette River Basin in western Oregon. Based on detailed input from local stakeholders, three alternative future landscapes for the year 2050 were created and compared to present-day (circa 1990) and historical (pre-EuroAmerican settlement) landscapes. We evaluated the likely effects of these landscape changes on four endpoints: water availability, Willamette River, stream condition, and terrestrial wildlife. All three futures assume a doubling of the 1990 human population by 2050. The Plan Trend 2050 scenario assumes current policies and trends continue. Because Oregon has several conservation-oriented policies in place, landscape changes and projected environmental effects associated with this scenario were surprisingly small (most <10% change relative to 1990). The scenario did, however. engender a debate among stakeholders about the reasonableness of assuming that existing policies would be implemented exactly as written if no further policy actions were taken. The Development 2050 scenario reflects a loosening of current policies, more market-oriented approach, as proposed by some stakeholders. Estimated effects of this scenario include loss of 24% of prime farmland; 39% more wildlife species would lose habitat than gain habitat relative to the 1990 landscape. Projected effects on aquatic biota were less severe. primarily because many of the land use changes involved conversion of agricultural lands into urban or rural development, both of which adversely impact streams. Finally, Conservation 2050 assumes that ecosystem protection and restoration are given higher priority, although still within the bounds of what stakeholders considered plausible. In response, most ecological indicators (both terrestrial and aquatic) recovered 20-70% of the losses sustained since EuroAmerican settlement. The one exception is water availability. Water consumed for out-of-stream uses increased under all three future scenarios (by 40-60%). with accompanying decreases in stream flow. Although the conservation measures incorporated into Conservation 2050 moderated the increase in consumption, they were not sufficient to reverse the trend. Results from these analyses have been actively discussed by stakeholder groups charged with developing a vision for the basin's future and a basin-wide restoration strategy.