Our climate is changing, and we’re already experiencing the effects. Hotter, drier, smokier summers. Longer wildfire seasons. Warmer winters and more spring flooding. More variability from one year to the next. These are a few of the changes we can expect in Missoula County in the coming decades, according to locally-specific climate projections.

So how do we prepare? Around the world, communities are stepping up to build local resiliency, and Missoula is, too. We’ve been a part of a core team from Missoula County, the City of Missoula, and Climate Smart Missoula to shepherd Climate Ready Missoula through an 18-month process, and this week we were excited to release the draft plan and take an important step toward a more resilient Missoula County.

The word “resiliency” is thrown around a lot these days, but what exactly does it mean? It’s about being ready for these changes and prepared to bounce back from the disruptions that climate change will bring.

But it’s more than that. It also means making sure no one is left behind, and that we “bounce forward” to create a more equitable and just Missoula County. And it doesn’t stop there. Resiliency also requires us to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that drive climate change.

For more than a year, we’ve been working with hundreds of stakeholders representing diverse sectors and gathering their input to make this plan a reality. Our draft plan includes guiding principles to navigate the implementation process and address inherent tradeoffs, locally-specific climate projections, the risks they pose for the county, and proposed strategies to address those risks.

We know that climate change will impact all of us, and we’ve developed goals and strategies across eight topic areas (wildfire smoke, heat, and health; buildings and land use; water; ecosystems and wildlife; agriculture; emergency preparedness and response; business, tourism, and recreation; and energy) that will help us become climate ready.

The plan is organized by sectors, but we know building resiliency will require us to break out of our silos and collaborate in new ways. As mentioned in this Current article, the draft Climate Ready Missoula plan highlights these intersections, and the accompanying website provides an interactive tool to show how the vulnerabilities that one sector faces will require action from many different parts of our community.

So what would a resilient Missoula County look like? According to the Climate Ready Missoula plan, it’s a place in which we consider the likelihood of wildfires and floods when making decisions about where and how we build, shifting new development away from high risk areas and retrofitting existing structures where necessary.

It’s a place where all buildings — homes, businesses and public spaces — will provide clean and cool air during extended wildfire seasons, ensuring that every community member has a place to breathe safely. These buildings will also be more energy efficient and powered by a clean, reliable, and affordable energy system.

Climate change will inform our infrastructure and business decisions. Stormwater will be managed with more “green infrastructure” to enhance ecosystems and reduce energy consumption in the face of increased flooding. Roads, bridges, and telecommunication systems will be designed for resilience in the face of increased disruption from major storms. The tourism and recreation industries will be more agile in adapting to changing conditions, adjusting the timing and location of activities where necessary.

We’ll have a food system where farmers have the information they need to produce food in a changing climate, the connections they need to weather those transitions, and the infrastructure in place to increase the public’s access to local foods.

Aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems are crucial, too, and need to be protected and prepared so they can remain healthy as our climate changes. And of course, a resilient Missoula County includes our trees, flowers, shrubs, fish and wildlife.

Building a resilient Missoula County will take all of us. Please take a look at the draft plan and let us know what you think. You can provide comments online at climatereadymissoula.org or in person at one of three drop-in style open houses hosted by Missoula County, the City, and Climate Smart Missoula:

  • Wednesday January 22, 11:30-1:30pm, County Courthouse (Sophie Moiese Room)
  • Wednesday, January 22, 4-6pm, County Courthouse (Sophie Moiese Room)
  • Friday, January 24, 11:30-1:30, City Council Chambers

Climate change will impact all of us. Let’s get climate ready, Missoula.

Learn more and get involved at climatereadymissoula.org.

Diana Maneta is the energy conservation and sustainability coordinator for Missoula County; Caroline Lauer is the program director at Climate Smart Missoula; Amy Cilimburg is the executive director of Climate Smart Missoula; Chase Jones is the energy conservation and climate action coordinator for the City of Missoula.

This Sustainable Missoula column is brought to you – via the Missoula Current – every Friday by Climate Smart Missoula and Home ReSource.

Upcoming Sustainability Events

Every Friday. Missoula Friday Climate Strike. Noon – 1pm. Join us at the Missoula County Courthouse as we stand in solidarity with climate strikers around the world. Watch this space for strikes in other locations as well! More here.

Now through JanuaryDear Tomorrow Missoula letter writing project, sponsored by Climate Smart Missoula and Families for a Livable Climate. Dear Tomorrow is a global storytelling project focused on sharing personal messages about climate change to inspire action. Details here.

Now through January. 2020 Clear the Air Challenge all month. It’s not too late to sign up!

January 23. UM’s Seeking Sustainability Lecture Series continues. Meets Thursdays 7 - 8:30 pm Jan 16 - May 7 in Gallagher Business Building room 122. Open to the public. Learn how UM, local government, nonprofits and businesses are working together to create a more sustainable community and how you can help. See the weekly schedule here.

January 27. 350 Montana’s Annual Meeting. 5:30 p.m. at the Union Club upstairs. All welcome.

January 28.  "Love, Despair, and Hope: Working Through Climate Change Grief into Action for our World." The first of a monthly spring series hosted by Faith & Climate Action. All are welcome. First United Methodist Church, 300 E. Main St, 6-8pm.

January 30. Earth Day Organizing Meeting, 4 - 5:30 pm. Missoula Public Library. Join Missoula-area youth and families to begin organizing for Earth Day 2020. Event info here. RSVPs appreciated via Facebook or email. Co-hosted by Sunrise Movement Missoula and Families for a Livable Climate.

February 19The Big Climate Change Event. Join us at the Wilma. 7pm. Presentation you won’t want to miss + climate commitments and what we can do. Save the date and learn more. FREE and open to all.

February 22. Running Up for Air endurance event sponsored by the Runner’s Edge and in support of Climate Smart Missoula. 3, 6, or 12 hour up and down event on Mt Sentinel. Join us by signing up to participate or pledging to support runners!