Tag Archive for: Resiliency

When I lived in Beijing, people would always ask me how the pollution was. I told them two things: the Communist Party planted trees to stop sandstorms from entering the capital. Second, they also moved factories away from the city, yet didn’t shut them down. Despite all this, the Chinese capital still experiences terrible air quality for periods of the year. This past summer I moved home to Minnesota and was amazed to watch everyone taking pictures of the smoky haze drifting east from California, Washington, and Oregon and south from Canada.  While this was new for them, I was reminded of Beijing. A picturesque lake, glazed over with a harsh bite of reality: the wildfire smoke had finally reached the boundary waters of Northern Minnesota. Little did I know that I would soon move to the largest EPA superfund site in the United States, Butte, Montana where they have been dealing with these environmental issues for decades. 

A hundred years ago, at the height of a copper mining boom, Butte was the largest city between Chicago and the West. After most of the mines shut down, Butte’s population plummeted to only a fraction. Now, the community is growing again after decades of environmental restoration.  

Butte’s future will be shaped by opportunities and challenges related to climate change. Butte is seen by private industry as a good location for clean energy development with recent proposals to develop solar, green hydrogen, and energy storage systems. However, the community faces climate challenges that threaten to undo much of the environmental work of recent years. Community leaders are eager to understand the challenges and achieve the opportunities by developing a climate adaptation and green energy plan. Thus, our project was born—Resilient Butte. 

Butte-Silver Bow County, Montana Technological University, and the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) are partnering to create a Butte Sustainability and Resilience Plan. Unlike us Minnesotans, Montana has been battling drought and wildfire risk for years—risks that are only getting worse.  

One priority is to protect the Basin Creek watershed, the main source of Butte’s drinking water. Vast areas of beetle-killed lodgepole pine in the watershed are at risk of burning in a wildfire, which could fill the reservoir with sediments and plug water treatment filters. Even further, many Butte residents live in old buildings without proper insulation and weatherization, which pose health risks from rising temperatures and wildfire smoke. Those are just a couple issues we want to tackle with this new plan. But our plan isn’t just about the negatives. 

Butte has a rich history. It is well-positioned and has the potential to become a fantastic renewable energy hub. Butte industrial products, including silicon gas and copper, are essential for solar energy. In recent years, Butte has been approached by large-array solar and green hydrogen energy developers, but county officials haven’t yet developed land-use plans to accommodate these new uses.  Meanwhile, the county is eyeing infrastructure investments through the U.S. Department of Energy to develop clean energy projects on former mine lands. The Resilient Butte project will provide an economic development guide for the city-county.  

With our first steps towards Resilient Butte, we’d like to invite the residents in Butte to participate in a survey that can be found at: ResilientButte.org. We would like to also invite you to connect with Resilient Butte on Facebook and Instagram and at our website Resilient Butte. Get involved and help shape Butte’s climate adaptation and green energy plan! 

The National Center for Appropriate Technology is partnering with Montana Campus Compact (MTCC) to create a MTCC VISTA “Resilience Cohort.” This cohort will consist of AmeriCorps VISTA members serving in rural communities around Montana, building capacity for anti-poverty and education initiatives through the lens of local resilience. NCAT will continue to host a VISTA in support of the Resilient Butte initiative, plus a second VISTA member who will coordinate the various programs and grow the Resilience Cohort project.

Resilience in this instance refers to the ability of a community at the city, county, tribal, or regional level, to withstand shocks and plan for the future, and adapt to and mitigate climate change. The climate crisis is most acutely felt at the local level, and among disadvantaged groups. Using the Montana Department of Commerce’s Montana Resilience Framework as a guide, Resilience Cohort members will meet communities where they are, holding community conversations around climate disruption, local challenges, and local solutions.

MTCC is currently recruiting for five positions to begin at the start of the next service term, August 15, 2022. Each position is based in a small, rural Montana community. Cities include Havre on the Canadian border, Livingston just north of Yellowstone National Park, Red Lodge located south of Billings Polson on Flathead Lake and the Flathead Indian Reservation near Glacier National Park, and Poplar, on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in the northeast of the state.

Havre: Opportunity Link seeks systemic solutions to reduce poverty and help the communities of Northcentral Montana achieve and sustain independence, prosperity and a better way of life. As an AmeriCorps member you will collaborate with Aaniiih Nakoda College and Stone Child College, staff and community members on the Rocky Boy and Fort Belknap Indian Reservations to research and develop materials to offer a series of trainings designed to increase the capacity of current and potential local food growers to create an economically successful business through their agricultural activities. Apply Today!

Livingston: The Park County Environmental Council works with the community to safeguard the land, water, wildlife, and people of Yellowstone’s Northern gateway through grassroots organizing and community advocacy. As an AmeriCorps member you will perform a needs assessment of the community and identify solutions for the most pressing threats posed by a changing climate (wildfires, droughts, agricultural impact, tourism impact, community mental health, etc.). Based on this assessment, you will develop a Park County Community Resilience Plan based upon the model of the Montana Resilience Framework. Apply Today!

Polson: Since 1958, the mission of Flathead Lakers has been to protect clean water, healthy ecosystems, and a lasting quality of life in the Flathead watershed. As an AmeriCorps member, you will assess the greatest needs in the region’s low-income communities related to climate resilience, such as the increased risk of wildfire and flooding posed by climate change. Based on this assessment, you will develop strategic outreach and communication plans to promote landscape and community resilience in the Flathead Watershed. Apply Today!

Poplar: The Office of Environmental Protection for the Fort Peck Tribes works to provide a better world for tomorrow by conserving the natural resources of the Fort Peck Reservation. As an AmeriCorps member, you will help to establish a climate resilience plan for the Tribes by community assessment activities and researching preparedness strategies. The resilience plan will enable communities to better respond to the impacts of climate change and to be better prepared for environmental disasters and environmental system shocks. Apply Today!

Red Lodge: The Planning and Zoning Division of the City of Red Lodge administers the city’s growth management program. As an AmeriCorps member you will serve at City Hall under the supervision of the city’s Planning Director in close partnership with the Red Lodge Area Community Foundation to perform an assessment of the Mountain Springs Villa low-income housing area. You will evaluate options to improve green infrastructure and engage in fundraising activities to implement identified infrastructure improvements. Apply Today!

For more information about AmeriCorps, the VISTA program, MTCC, or any of the service positions listed above please visit https://mtcompact.org/. Other service positions, in addition to those listed above, can be found here.

For more information about the Resilience Cohort, please write to andrewm@ncat.org.

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.