Missoula County Climate Action: Creating a Resilient and Sustainable Community
Missoula County is host to a diversity of people, local industries, intact ecosystems, and dramatic scenery. Its rivers and forests provide abundant opportunity for outdoor activities while the university and bustling downtown Missoula provide culture and entertainment. When people are asked why they live in Missoula County, they often refer to the high quality of life that is available here.
Missoula County's quality of life is at risk, however, from a variety of pressures and challenges that range fro population growth to energy and water demands. Unfortunately, one primary threat has the capacity to overwhelm and affect all others- the threat of climate change. Climate change is expected to have substantial impacts to the natural systems of Missoula County, including rivers, streams, forests and wildlife. These impacts will in turn affect infrastructure, emergency response capacity, human health, tourism, agriculture, forestry and many other facets of society.
We assessed how a changing climate might affect Missoula County using the latest science and local expertise in a community-based process called ClimateWise. The ClimateWise process included climate change model output, a community workshop that involved expert participation from throughout different sectors and interests, and close guidance by a local Steering Committee.
During the ClimateWise process, groups of experts and leaders from across the different sectors of the community developed a suite of strategies for "climate change adaptation" - the process of preparing for climate change to reduce overall impacts to natural and human communities. We view these strategies as a critical first step in what will need to be an ongoing process as the climate, scientific understanding of the earth's processes, and other drivers such as population growth, change over time.