Centers partner for increased climate resiliency of South Dakota tribes

· 3 min read

Centers partner for increased climate resiliency of South Dakota tribes

Crystal Stiles, climatologist with the High Plains Regional Climate Center, delivers a presentation on climate monitoring and drought management on tribal lands. | Courtesy image
Crystal Stiles, climatologist with the High Plains Regional Climate Center, delivers a presentation on climate monitoring and drought management on tribal lands.

Through two new federally funded grants, the High Plains Regional Climate Center and the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln will be helping four tribes in South Dakota reduce their climate vulnerability.

Through a series of workshops and training sessions, as well as continued technical support, climatologists Crystal Stiles and Natalie Umphlett with HPRCC will provide climate data and information training to the Rosebud Sioux, Oglala Sioux, Standing Rock Sioux and Flandreau Santee Sioux tribes. They also will train individuals to monitor and communicate climate information in a quarterly summary format.

Cody Knutson and Kelly Smith with the drought center will train the tribes on conducting climate vulnerability assessments, with an eye specifically on the water sectors, and also will help develop a water resources vulnerability assessment training guidebook for tribal managers.

The work is part of nearly $450,000 granted through the U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Indian Affairs Climate Resilience Program to support the Great Plains Tribal Water Alliance; roughly $80,000 of it will fund the centers’ work with the tribes.

The kick-off meeting for the two-year project was in November, but the first training workshops will be this spring. The first will be in South Dakota to provide basic climate and vulnerability assessment training to stakeholders and to develop an approach for carrying out the work jointly with the tribes.

“This will be a great opportunity to bring all of the partners together and develop a common understanding of how the project will be carried out to accommodate the specific needs of each tribe,” Knutson said.

A second workshop will be in Lincoln in the spring. The intent of the Lincoln workshop is to raise awareness of available climate data and tools and how to use them.

“We’ll host labs, and people will actually practice using the tools to get familiar with them,” Stiles said.

The next step will be training members from the tribes to interpret climate data and write quarterly climate summaries. Each tribe’s summary may include different climate-related data pertinent to their community and region. For example, some may be more concerned with snowpack and runoff, while others may want to focus on precipitation during other seasons.

The remainder of the project will focus on working with the tribes to complete vulnerability assessments to identify climate-related threats and operationalize the climate summaries, which will serve as a foundation for creating climate adaptation plans and making timely management decisions and declarations during periods of climate extremes.

“The tribes want to be resilient and self-reliant,” Stiles said. “With this training, they will have a climate history they’ve built on their own through quarterly climate summaries, and they will be able to make their own decisions.”

Umphlett added, “It’s empowering.”

For both centers, this project, set for completion in fall 2018, fits into climate-related work already underway in the Missouri Basin. Both groups hope work with tribes expands beyond this project, possibly into North Dakota and Montana.

Other program partners on this project include the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Integrated Drought Information System, South Dakota State University, South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, and Louis Berger, an engineering company.

The GPTWA is an independent organization that addresses technical and policy issues regarding tribal water resources and serves as an advisory committee to the Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association.

Both the HPRCC and NDMC are a part of the School of Natural Resources at University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

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