Reader opinion: Rising temperatures hitting Montana’s economy

When I moved to Montana more than eight years ago, I experienced my first and harshest winter to date. Since then, I have witnessed dramatic variations in our winter months, and these variations are beginning to reflect upon our economy.

Montana’s most valuable source of income has been generated through our abundant outdoor recreation opportunities, producing $7.1 billion a year in consumer spending and creating more than 71,000 jobs.

With climate change creeping upon and looming even larger in front of us, our state’s economy is inherently threatened by these fluctuations that we are witnessing before our own eyes. The effects have been quite blatant this year already.

This winter we have been experiencing abnormally high temperatures and abysmal snowpack levels, to the point where multiple wildfires arose near the Billings area on Dec. 19, due to strong winds and lack of snow.

It’s predicted that Montana will see a temperature rise of 4-5 degrees by 2055, if we do not mitigate the challenges ahead of us. And it’s not only our winter recreation that will be affected. If this trend continues, it’s predicted snowpack could be decreased by 20-60 percent.

This will have a significant impact on waterflows in our rivers and streams which will then also magnify our wildfire seasons, making spring/summer recreation difficult. If we want to protect Montana and our outdoor way of life, we need to act on climate now.

Alexandra Rich, Helena