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National Drought Mitigation Center

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Drought, regional climate centers receive Climate Adaptation honorable mention

May 24, 2017

The Wind River Reservation Drought Preparedness Team recently earned an Honorable Mention Climate Adaptation Leadership Award for its leadership in reducing climate-related threats and promoting adaptation of the nation’s natural resources. 

The project combines the expertise of researchers, scientists and other professionals at 15 university-, tribal-, regional- and federal-level organizations, including the National Drought Mitigation Center and the High Plains Regional Climate Center, both at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, School of Natural Resources.

Recipients were selected from 27 nominations representing activities from individuals and federal, tribal, state, local and non-governmental organizations from around the country. The Climate Award Leadership Award ceremony was part of a National Adaptation Forum on May 9 to 11 in St. Paul, Minnesota.

“Today we recognize individuals and agencies who are developing and using innovative methods to safeguard the nation’s living natural resources from a rapidly changing world,” said Kevin Hunting, Chief Deputy Director of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and co-chair of the Joint Implementation Working Group of the National Fish, Wildlife, and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy. “Their leadership is a source of inspiration for additional efforts to advance climate-smart resource conservation and management with lasting positive impacts on the nation’s communities and economy.”

The project is a collaboration with the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes to reduce the effects of drought and other climate variability on the Wind River Indian Reservation. Over the past two years, the 15 partners have worked closely with the Office of the Tribal Water Engineer and the Wind River Water Resources and Control Board, who are the leadership and decision-making authority on water management on the reservation, to co-produce actionable science for drought preparedness. 

They have conducted a tribal-driven social-ecological vulnerability assessment; co-produced drought and climate change-related information and decision-support tools; and engaged the community, including youth, on drought and climate science.

Cody Knutson, a research associate professor and social scientist with the NDMC, is leading the work with Shannon McNeeley of Colorado State University and the North Central Climate Science Center. Crystal Stiles, assistant geoscientist and applied climatologist with the HPRCC, helped train the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes to produce the climate summaries, a valuable tool in recording long-term climate effects, including available water, on the reservation. 

The ultimate goal is that information produced by the project will be used to inform the creation of a drought management plan for the reservation.

“It was an honor to help accept an award for a project that is near and dear to my heart,” Stiles said after accepting the award for the partnership. “The development of climate summaries for the Wind River Reservation was the first major task assigned to me after starting my position as a postdoc with the HPRCC. It has been a rewarding experience to be a part of the great work that has been done by the tribes and project partners during the past 2 1/2 to 3 years.”

Other partners on the project include: the National Integrated Drought Information System; US Fish and Wildlife Service; the Bureau of Indian Affairs; Colorado State University; University of Wyoming EPSCoR; Wyoming State Climate Office; Western Water Assessment at CU-Boulder; Montana State University; Great Northern Landscape Conservation Cooperative; and USDA Northern Plains Climate Hub.

Other co-investigators include Mitch Cottenoir, of the Office of the Tribal Water Engineer; Jennifer Wellman, with the Wyoming Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research; and Mark Svoboda at the National Drought Mitigation Center. Nicole Wall, Tonya Bernadt, Tonya Haigh, Kelly Smith and Brian Fuchs, all of the drought center, also have provided technical and administrative assistance during the project. 

The Climate Adaptation Leadership Award was established in 2016 to recognize outstanding leadership by individuals, organizations, businesses and agencies to support the resilience of America’s vital natural resources and the many people, businesses and communities that depend on them. 

Natural resources provide important benefits and services to Americans every day, including jobs, income, food, clean water and air, building materials, storm protection, tourism and recreation. For example, hunting, fishing and other wildlife-related recreation contribute an estimated $120 billion to our nation's economy every year, and marine ecosystems sustain a U.S. seafood industry that supports more than 1.8 million jobs and $214 billion in economic activity annually.

The Award is sponsored by the National Fish, Wildlife, and Plant Climate Adaptation Strategy’s Joint Implementation Working Group in partnership with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Forest Service, and the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.

For more information about the 2017 Climate Adaptation Leadership Awards for Natural Resources, including the eight recipients, honorable mentions, and all 27 nominees, please visit the Climate Adaptation Leadership Award page

— Shawna Richter-Ryerson, Natural Resources; the National Fish, Wildlife and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy contributed to this report.

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