EcoAdapt and Partners Bring Climate Change Adaptation (and Lovely Weather!) to the Great Northern Landscape Conservation Cooperative’s Rocky Mountain Partner Forum

By Lara Hansen

Springtime in Bozeman! The wildflowers are blooming, along with the cultivated lilac. But all the talk is about climate change, even on the front page of the local paper. Lara was in town joining the great Molly Cross (Wildlife Conservation Society), Nina Chambers and Gary Tabor (Center for Large Landscape Conservation) for a collaboration to work with the Great Northern Landscape Conservation Cooperative’s Rocky Mountain Partner Forum. The team led a two-day workshop to explore opportunities for watershed function and coldwater systems conservation and management. Researchers and managers from around the region compared relevant goals, considered the implications of climate change, and envisioned means to achieve success in the face of climate change.

It is always a good idea for a workshop of this size to make sure that everyone is on the same page and using common language so conversation is understood. To support this we started off the day with a few presentations. First, an overview of the GNLCC by Yvette Converse where she highlighted the goals of the GNLCC as a whole and the Rocky Mountain Partner Forum concept. You can learn more about the GNLCC here. Next up was a tagteam overview of adaptation perspectives and approaches from Lara and Molly. Then we got into the effects of climate change. First up, Greg Pederson (USGS) on climate projections and uncertainties for the region, followed by Robert Al-Chockachy (USGS) on climate change impacts to stream flows, wetlands and aquatic species, and Ray Rasker (Headwaters Economics) on current socio-economic and demographic trends and implications for climate change responses. We also got a suite of examples shared about how people are already approaching the climate change challenge in the region. Look for more on these as case studies on CAKE soon!

Sending the group forth to evaluate solutions in small groups, Gary Tabor suggested that participants think of themselves as investment bankers and use the climate information they had heard in the morning as their guide to making investment choices. With this model they could develop a portfolio that will last into the future.

Identifying regional refugia to prioritize for protection
Lots of groups in the region are working on identifying climate refugia or factors that might convey resilience to support refugia. There was a group desire to coordinate those groups and develop a good refugia resource. Many of the existing data sets, ongoing studies, and groups interested were identified to perhaps move forward on this as an activity of the Rocky Mountain Partner Forum.

Developing a holistic management strategy for the Rocky Mountain Partner Forum
While there was a great deal of interest and effort afoot to identify the refugia, there was group appreciation that protecting refugia would not prove successful without protecting the “matrix” around it. This led the group to an additional action of interest, which was to develop an integrated, holistic plan for conservation and management across the landscape, including public and private lands—from wildlands to agricultural fields to towns and cities.

Mitigation (a.k.a. reducing greenhouse gas emissions)
The need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions also loomed large in the conversation. With news of the atmosphere arriving at 400ppm CO2 arriving a few weeks before the workshop, the need to action to slow the rate and extent of climate change was apparent and lead to some heated (no pun intended) conversation about how to best achieve this—through personal action, public education, international mandate or something else.

To find out more about the workshop, visit the official workshop support page and stay tuned for further work in this process.  Our workshop also made the local newspaper!