The Stewardship Guide has proven to be a valuable resource for many rural communities. You can view a video endorsement from Credit Valley Conservation and learn how they use the Stewardship Guide to connect with rural non-farm residents here.
Over the past 3 years, a concerted effort has been directed at mechanisms whereby greater use and dissemination of the contents of the Guide have been a focus of discussion. Appendix A lays out the overall work program that was used to update, and make better use of the Guide. Appendix B provides a listing of the specific activities that went towards the overall project endeavour.
How has the Guide been Improved, and How can Additional Improvements be made in the Future
Sections of the Guide that users have identified needing updates have been updated. These sections include matters associated with water quality and source water protection, species at risk, climate change adaptation.
The Guide to retain its usefulness will need to be updated on a periodic basis. It’s suggested that a 5 year update cycle be used as a reasonable timeframe in order to keep the Guide’s information fresh and informative. In order to reflect an increasingly multi-cultural Ontario rural countryside, efforts to explain concepts in ‘non-word’ formats should be considered in future Guide editions. An effective mechanism is to provide graphics that illustrate ‘do this’ and ‘not this’ side by side illustrations of environmental action.
The Guide should be reformatted to include section numbers and pages, to allow updating of sections to occur from time to time, or for users to insert specific reference material in a certain section. In this manner, re-numbering of the entire Guide does not need to be done if a few pages are added/selected from revised updates of the Guide over time. It is also recommended that hard-copy versions of the Guide be placed in a binder format document whereby pages can be inserted/removed as required. The current cerlox-bound document format makes it difficult to be updated from time to time.
Great utility in the use of the Guide can be derived through a variety of mechanisms associated with using a portion or the entire Guide. At a 200+ page report with over 100 ‘best practice’ activities that can be associated with a rural property, there are many applications where the Guide is of use. On the other hand, stewardship agencies have commented that the self-assessment process can be overwhelming for many landowners, and they don’t have time to go through the survey process, and only want to work on one/several initiatives that they prioritize.
From a number of differing experiences, the greatest uptake in the use of the Guide occurs when financial incentives are tied to using the workbook and prioritization schedules of the Guide. The best utilization of the Guide has occurred in the Lake Simcoe Cleanup initiative, i.e. this initiative started in 2009 with federal and provincial funding directed to the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan.
Efforts to link the use of the Guide to various funded activities should be emphasized. Funding from non-profits, private foundations, government agencies, etc. can be useful for incentivising the use of the Guide in conjunction with specific environmental improvement initiatives.
To make the Guide applicable to more potential users and use settings, instructions in the ‘how to use this Guide’ portion of the report should be modified. Alternative mechanisms to using the Guide should be included whereby only sections that are applicable to a particular group can be emphasized with the remaining portion of the workbook being referenced as something that may be considered at a future time. In this way the contemplation of actions comprising over 100 different topic areas for a user do not need to be made. In this way priority can still be made to those actions that a particular user is interested in, and most likely most motivated with.