ResilienceMT: Building Resilience in Montana’s Rural and Tribal Communities
“ResilienceMT: Building Resilience in Montana’s Rural and Tribal Communities” education and engagement activities will enhance the environmental literacy of over 2,000 Montanans, including youth and adults, and support community climate resilience planning, implementation, and capacity building. This project addresses the need for adaptive capacity related to (1) wildfires and associated impacts on human health, state and local budgets, and Montana’s tourism and recreation economies; (2) drought and impacts on crops, agricultural economies, wildlife and game species, and culturally-significant plants; and (3) flooding due to extreme weather events and changes in amount and timing of spring snowmelt and associated impacts on water supplies, recreation, and fishing. Impacts associated with our changing climate are already occurring, and rural and tribal communities are particularly vulnerable and less prepared than larger communities. Project objectives include building action competence and capacity for resilience planning and implementation among youth and adults in partner communities. Specifically, the project will develop participants’ climate resilience-related knowledge and skills as well as their willingness, confidence, and capacity for action. Project leaders from the University of Montana, including spectrUM Discovery Area, and Montana State University will work in close collaboration with two tribal communities in Montana, the Blackfeet Nation, and the Fort Belknap Indian Community, and with two rural communities in the Bitterroot Valley, all of which are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Project activities aimed at achieving these objectives include (1) An interactive, data-based Mobile Climate Resilience Exhibit serving middle and high school students and families; (2) Community Climate Resilience Resource Guides; (3) Community Climate Resilience Forums; and (4) Follow-up interviews, report dissemination, and additional education and networking opportunities. The Mobile Exhibit will be collaboratively designed with partner teachers and communities and will utilize data and expertise from multiple sources including NOAA and the Montana Climate Office. The exhibit will employ digital ESRI Story Maps and other interactive physical elements to allow students and families to explore the science of wildfires, drought, and flooding; historical trends and projected climate changes, impacts, and interrelated human and ecological vulnerabilities at multiple geographic scales; and locally relevant climate resilience strategies. Elements of the Mobile Exhibit will be included in the Resource Guides, which will be available online and in print at the Community Forums. Collaboratively designed and led with tribal environmental offices and community partner organizations, the Community Climate Resilience Forums will include intergenerational dialogue; enhance understanding of community climate vulnerabilities and resilience planning efforts; and facilitate local action projects. Project leaders will obtain additional input from forum participants and community leaders; report to the community on the results; and facilitate various follow-up engagement, education, and networking activities among students and other community members to support achieving project objectives.