Moving from Awareness to Action: Advancing Climate Change Vulnerability Assessments and Adaptation Planning for Idaho and Montana National Forests

Jessi Kershner, Andrea Woodward, Alicia Torregrosa
Posted on: 7/18/2022 - Updated on: 3/03/2023

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The rugged landscapes of northern Idaho and western Montana support biodiverse ecosystems, and provide a variety of natural resources and services for human communities. However, the benefits provided by these ecosystems may be at risk as changing climate magnifies existing stressors and allows new stressors to emerge. Preparation for and response to these potential changes can be most effectively addressed through multi-stakeholder partnerships, evaluating vulnerability of important resources to climate change, and developing response and preparation strategies for managing key natural resources in a changing world. This project supports climate-smart conservation and management across forests of northern Idaho and western Montana through three main components:

  1. Fostering partnerships among scientists, land managers, regional landowners, conservation practitioners, and the public
  2. Assessing the vulnerability of a suite of regionally important resources to climate change and other stressors
  3. Creating a portfolio of adaptation strategies and actions to help resource managers prepare for and respond to the likely impacts of climate change.

The results of this project are meant to inform the upcoming land management plan revisions for national forests, helping ensure that the most effective and robust conservation and management strategies are implemented to preserve our natural resources. 

Public land managers face the daunting task of incorporating climate change vulnerability assessments into their land use planning. This NW CSC project developed decision support tools to guide resource managers through the process of including future climate projections, climate change vulnerability assessments, and adaptation response strategies and tactics into ongoing and existing planning efforts such as FS forest plan revisions and individual project plans. The tools were developed and tested through direct engagement with resource managers. The tools guide participants through a step-wise process that provides a structured framework to help managers

  1. Integrate climate projections with other local information relevant to selecting management actions
  2. Justify those choices
  3. Incorporate those choices into management documents
  4. Communicate those choices to the public

Two user engagement groups populated the framework and tools for use in two different applications: FS R1 recreation managers planning at the project level and FS R1 recreation forest plan revision teams for the Custer-Gallatin and Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests. Although much of the content such as future climate projections, vulnerability assessments, and adaptation response strategies and tactics was identical for both groups, how that information was processed and used was different between the two groups. The process of developing the tools demonstrated the importance of striking a balance between decision support tools that are too prescriptive to address a range of situations versus too general to truly provide guidance. The success of these tools has led to a continuation of this project beyond the initial NW CSC funded period. Development of tool content specific to the nonforested vegetation resource area is on-going.


Jessi Kershner, Andrea Woodward, Alicia Torregrosa. (2017). Final Report: Moving from Awareness to Action: Advancing Climate Change Vulnerability Assessments and Adaptation Planning for Idaho and Montana National Forests.

Affiliated Organizations

The Northwest Climate Science Center (NW CSC) was established in 2010 by the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) to address the challenges presented by climate change and variability in the northwestern United States. The center is a federally-led research collaboration hosted by three major universities: Oregon State University, University of Washington, and University of Idaho. In addition to the host institutions, the NW CSC also includes important partner institutions.

The USGS is a science organization that provides impartial information on the health of our ecosystems and environment, the natural hazards that threaten us, the natural resources we rely on, the impacts of climate and land-use change, and the core science systems that help us provide timely, relevant, and useable information.