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Climate Ready: Team will be tasked with implementing goals of Missoula plan

Missoula students marched last year to protest what they described as apathy by elected officials and other leaders on the issue of climate change. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current file photo)

A new plan preparing Missoula for the impacts of climate change will move toward the implementation phase in the coming months, and at least one county commissioner will have a seat at the table.

Nearly two years in the making, the Climate Ready Missoula Plan covers a wide range of topics, from mitigating the impacts of climate change to adapting new policies. The Missoula City Council and Board of County Commissioners adopted the plan in mid-May on 14-1 vote.

“We adopted the Climate Ready Missoula Plan, which is our plan for Missoula County to adapt to climate change,” said Diana Maneta, the county’s energy conservation coordinator and one of the plan’s authors. “Leading up to the adoption of it, there’s been a steering committee that worked for a good long time. With the plan adopted, it’s time to roll into implementation.”

The plan was authored largely by a team of four aided by the scientific community at the University of Montana. A steering committee comprised of 14 others helped shepherd the plan to adoption, including City Council member Heather Harp and Commissioner Dave Strohmaier.

Commissioners have agreed to keep Strohmaier in place as the county’s top representative as the plan moves toward implementation.

“This has been a huge lift to get this thing over the finish line,” Strohmaier said. “Seeing behind the scenes all the work that went into wrangling all the myriad recommendations has been impressive.”

The recommendations included in the plan cover a range of sectors, including development, energy, agriculture and tourism. The plan breaks each sector down into actionable goals, like protecting open space from development, strengthening public transit, and increasing prescribed fire and forest thinning where appropriate.

Setting the strategies in place won’t be easy, the plan acknowledges. Barriers will likely include existing city, county and state policies, technological hurdles and social perceptions. Funding may also be key to success.

Maneta said the implementation team is still taking shape.

“The implementation team – we don’t have all the details worked out on how it’ll be structured,” said Maneta. “It’s an evolving process. Ultimately, we’d love to have a full-time staff position oversee the implementation of this plan, since it’s such a broad and far reaching effort.”

Maneta said the team will be tasked with prioritizing the plan’s 77 strategies and determining what goals to tackle first. The team will likely include several working groups focused on specific sections of the plan.

“We have at this point asked the steering committee members who have been serving for almost two years,” said Maneta. “A number of them have expressed interest and willingness to continue moving forward. We put the request out to figure out who’s going to stay with us and move forward on the implementation team.”

Strohmaier helped spearhead the plan’s adoption over the past two years and last week, he offered to relinquish his role to another commissioner. However, the board agreed to keep Strohmaier in place as the implementation phase begins.

“I think all of Missoula County would benefit from the continuity and institutional knowledge that you bring to this,” Commissioner Josh Slotnick told him. “You guys put in an incredible amount of energy to create this thing.”