Climate change, local communities and the Forest Service

Dr. David L. Peterson
U.S. Forest Service
July 19th, 2016 at 1:15PM

A photo of The 2013 Beaver Creek Fire with firefighters in the distance.
The 2013 Beaver Creek Fire caused evacuations in Hailey, Idaho and cost millions of dollars in lost revenue in the community. (Photo credit: Steve Dondero, sunvalleymag.com)

The phrase think globally and act locally has guided generations of people dedicated to improving the environment and creating social change. And this approach still works in the intermountain West.

Last May, the Sawtooth National Forest sponsored a workshop in the mountain town of Hailey, Idaho. Looking out at world-famous Sun Valley ski resort, citizens from Blaine County met with the Forest Service to talk about climate change.  

The workshop was one of six hosted by the Forest Service-led Intermountain Adaptation Partnership which has assembled about100 research scientists and resource specialists to conduct a far-reaching assessment of climate change effects on natural resources in the Intermountain West. Building on the assessment, the partnership is developing adaptation options to reduce negative effects and improve the resilience of species and ecosystems.

A photo of District Ranger Kurt Nelson and a local citizen viewing the effects of the fire
District Ranger Kurt Nelson and a local citizen view the effects of the fire. (Photo credit: Sawtooth National Forest)

A cross-section of local county and city officials, utility companies, land management agencies, environmental organizations and students discussed how climate change may affect their local community and economy. Presentations at the event described future climate projections, and potential effects on water resources, vegetation, wildfire and recreation.

Bringing a unique perspective to the Blaine County workshop were members of the local high school club WATER. Juniors and seniors keenly aware of the impact that climate change will have on their lives, the students were active participants in the discussion, bringing an urgency to the dialogue on adapting to a changing climate.

Like many communities across the U.S., Blaine County has a long history of being on the forefront of planning, and local officials and non-profit groups are discussing actions needed to adapt to climate change. 

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Declining snowpack and its effects on recreation and water supplies are a major concern for residents in Blaine County, Idaho. (Photo: Ray Gadd, http://visitsunvalley.com)

The Intermountain Adaptation Partnership will continue its work with national forests and local communities over the next year, developing science-based adaptation strategies that can be used in resource management and planning. The final climate assessment will be completed in fall 2016.