Tag Archive for: Climate Disruption

Butte-Silver Bow is partnering with the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) and Montana Technological University to develop a community Sustainability and Resilience Plan. County residents are invited to provide input, learn about the issues, and sign up for project working groups.

The bipartisan infrastructure bill recently passed by Congress represents the nation’s biggest investment in clean energy and providing local communities with the tools to fight climate disruption. These investments have the potential to boost local economic development tied to new sources of energy and to help communities prepare for climate change impacts such as drought, wildfire, and heat waves.

“There are going to be opportunities to boost our economy through new energy development, and Butte is well situated to benefit,” said Butte-Silver Bow Chief Executive J.P. Gallagher. “But we need to do this in a way that works best for our community, and that means planning ahead.” He said that this would include identifying potential locations and infrastructure needs for renewable energy developments such as solar, energy storage systems, or green hydrogen industries. Community engagement will help inform updates to BSB’s zoning code and the county’s Comprehensive Plan.

Gallagher also announced that BSB will participate in a National Science Foundation pilot project for community-based climate adaptation planning. Community workshops will be scheduled in the spring to identify critical community issues and develop local solutions. Several potential issues have been discussed by the three project partners, but priority focus areas will be guided by public input.

BSB residents are encouraged to take an online community survey to prioritize issues of concern, identify development opportunities, and sign up to get involved in the Resilient Butte project. The 5-minute survey is available at www.surveymonkey.com/r/ResilientButte.

One issue of concern is the health risk to vulnerable groups from increasingly smoky summers and the future likelihood of severe heat waves, such as the one that killed hundreds of people last summer in Washington and Oregon. Another vulnerability is growing wildfire risk to Butte’s municipal watersheds in Basin Creek, Moulton and the Big Hole. Concerns also have been raised about the long-term stability of reclamation areas on the Butte Hill as hotter, drier summers desiccate sites that have been revegetated. Butte also may experience population growth as people move away from climate impacts elsewhere, such as megafires in California or coastal flooding.

The adaptation workshops in late spring will be informed by the Montana Climate Assessment, developed by Montana universities to evaluate climate trends and projected impacts to Montana agriculture, forests, water resources, and public health. The workshops will be led by EcoAdapt, a nonprofit in Washington state, and Virginia Tech University, which jointly received a National Science Foundation award to determine the best approach for community-based planning for climate solutions. Butte is among eight communities across the nation selected to participate in this pilot project.

Montana Tech faculty and students will provide technical expertise and research to support the project. The project will tap Tech’s expertise in restoration ecology, environmental engineering, and watershed education. Engineering students will assist with a community energy assessment and greenhouse gas inventory. On March 23, the Montana Tech Public Lecture Series will feature Dr. Cathy Whitlock, a Montana State University Regents Professor and lead author of the Montana Climate Assessment.

“Montana Tech appreciates the opportunity to partner with Butte-Silver Bow, NCAT and our community to support a healthy and prosperous future,” said Chancellor Les Cook. “There are issues that we need to address, and there are new opportunities that we would be wise to consider.”

NCAT will coordinate community participation and educational programs, said Executive Director Steve Thompson. “NCAT provides technical assistance across the nation to develop practical solutions in support of community sustainability, regenerative agriculture, and clean energy. We have offices in 10 states, but Butte has been our headquarters for 46 years. We look forward to supporting our hometown through the Resilient Butte project.” 

NCAT AmeriCorps VISTA member Rylie Yaeger will be help coordinate opportunities for local residents to get involved in the planning process. “We’re inviting community members to participate in conversations about sustainability, climate resilience and economic development opportunities for Butte,” Yaeger said.

To learn more or get involved, contact Rylie Yaeger at Ryliey@ncat.org or 494-6644. Or find Resilient Butte on Facebook or Instagram.

A new USDA grant will fund the use of crop-insurance data to improve education and extension efforts that help farmers and ranchers assess the ways extreme weather and climate disruption have caused production losses and to project future losses.

The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) with Montana State University (MSU) and the University of California, Davis (UC-Davis) have been awarded the five-year $1.5 million grant to collaborate with the USDA Southwest and Northern Plains Climate Hubs.

In 2020, the farmers and ranchers in the states representing the Southwest and Northern Plains Climate Hubs suffered insured crop losses of $2.6 billion. The cost that these farmers and ranchers paid for this coverage was $1.8 billion (USDA RMA, 2021). While most of the insured causes of loss in these two regions can be explained by extreme weather, the long-term loss trends continue to increase because of a changing climate.

“This project will utilize a diverse team, including climate hub personnel, extension faculty, agricultural economists, graduate students, and two climate hub fellows to develop and implement improved extension materials for communicating these growing risks associated with extreme weather and climate change,” said Dr. Eric Belasco, Professor of Agricultural Economics at Montana State University and Co-project Director.

This unique effort is part of a new national collaboration with the USDA Climate Hubs. This regional partnership covering two large portions of the U.S. further extends the outreach efforts the Climate Hubs to reach organizations such as the Cooperative Extension Service that need to address extreme weather and climate challenges.

“We at the Southwest Climate Hub have built producer-friendly tools such as the AgRisk Viewer that can help assess weather and climate risks, and this project will help expand and improve the use of this and other tools that serve the farmers and ranchers of the Southwest,” added Dr. Emile Elias, Director of the USDA Southwest Climate Hub.

Understanding the type of climate-risk assessment information that farmers and ranchers in these regions need is a key part of this work.

“We will begin our efforts by hosting a number of focus group sessions that target the broad range of farmers and ranchers, including socially disadvantaged and minority producers and the educational institutions that serve them,” said NCAT Agricultural and Natural Resource Economist Jeff Schahczenski. “It is critical to listen to the needs of farmers and ranchers on how best to meet the challenges of future extreme weather and climate risks.”

MSU, NCAT, and UC-Davis have collaborated on several efforts to better understand the complexity of federal crop-insurance products and why these products aren’t widely used by farmers and ranchers across the country.

“For example, the expanding use of a unique kind of insurance called the Pasture, Rangeland and Forage Rainfall Index (PRF) has been an increasingly important product for livestock producers,” said Dr. Tina Saitone, Associate Cooperative Extensions Specialist, with UC-Davis and rangeland systems expert. “This ‘index’ insurance insures against forage losses based on a complicated formula related to independent rainfall-index measurements, and it is not simple to understand how best to optimize its use in livestock-production risks.”

In addition to assisting producers to better understand the trends in weather and climate-related losses, crop-insurance loss data will also be used to help assess what changes in production practices might better mitigate future losses.

“Our overarching approach and philosophy is that there is no silver bullet to managing risk in production systems, especially risks associated with climate variability,” Belasco said. “Instead, we take a risk management portfolio approach, with the goal of providing clear and detailed information for farmers, ranchers, and professionals so they can better address the regional risks that they currently face and are predicted to face in the future.”




THE NATIONAL CENTER FOR APPROPRIATE TECHNOLOGY (NCAT) has been helping people build resilient communities through local and sustainable solutions that reduce poverty, strengthen self-reliance, and protect natural resources since 1976. Headquartered in Butte, Montana, NCAT has field offices in Arkansas, California, Colorado, Idaho, Kentucky, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Texas.

USDA’s Climate Hubs are a unique collaboration across the department’s agencies. They are led and hosted by the Agricultural Research Service and Forest Service located at ten regional locations, with contributions from many agencies including the Natural Resources Conservation ServiceFarm Service Agency, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, and the Risk Management Agency. The Climate Hubs link USDA research and program agencies in their regional delivery of timely and authoritative tools and information to agricultural producers and professionals.

By Jeff Schahczenski, NCAT Agricultural and Natural Resource Economist

American farmers are stepping up to demonstrate that agriculture can be an important part of the climate solution by improving the resilience of America’s food system, reducing emissions, and facilitating on-farm production of renewable energy. Now, thousands of U.S. farmers and ranchers have signed a joint letter calling on partners in the private and public sector to help advance these solutions and invest in our rural and agricultural communities.

One farmer who signed onto the letter is Nina Prater, a soil health specialist for the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) and a farmer in Cedarville, Arkansas. “As a farmer, I understand first-hand how intricately my livelihood—and the entire system of food production—is tied in with nature. Climate change is throwing all natural patterns out of order, and this disrupts our ability to produce food in an economically viable way. Farmers are uniquely positioned to help solve the problem of climate change through soil carbon sequestration,” Prater said.

NCAT encourages other farmers and ranchers to add your name to the letter. There is a version in English and a version in Spanish. You can read the letter at these links and add your name.

Montana farmers Doug and Anna Crabtree. Photo: Courtesy of Vilicus Farms

Montana farmers Doug Crabtree and Anna Jones-Crabtree. Photo: Courtesy of Vilicus Farms

In November 2019, NCAT agriculture economist Jeff Schahczenski co-authored a major report on agriculture and climate change that identified federal policy initiatives that would support farmers who are committed to being part of the climate solution. The report, published by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, identifies policy opportunities to:

• build soil organic matter, soil health, and agricultural resilience;

• sequester C in soil and above-ground biomass;

• reduce greenhouse gas emissions;

• use resources sustainably; and

• maximize energy conservation.

NCAT is working with NSAC and its 116 member groups to make sure farmers have a direct voice in the national conversation about climate solutions in agriculture. In just a few months, more than 2000 farmers and ranchers from nearly every state have signed the letter. We have been overwhelmed with the response and want to build on this momentum!

If you are a food producer, please add your voice by April 15. Email addresses and contact information captured through the Google forms document will not be shared, sold, or retained by NSAC or any other party. Click here to read the letter and add your name.

Later this spring, NCAT, NSAC and partner groups will share this Farmer Letter on Climate Change in meetings with members of Congress, USDA program leaders, and other key decision-makers to urge effective policy action to combat climate change, and especially to help farmers and ranchers weather the storm and lead the way towards a more resilient future.

If you have any questions about the letter, contact Jeff Schahczenski at jeffs@ncat.org.