Building climate resilience in rural gateway communities

Start Date

Research Theme
Primary Investigators

Geographic Region

Gateway and natural amenity region (GNAR) communities are those located outside of significant natural amenities, like national parks, public lands, ski areas, and scenic rivers. These communities are heavily dependent on nearby natural amenities for their economic wellbeing; as a result, they may be particularly hard hit by climate change. In this project, we will leverage the infrastructure and relationships developed by WWA Investigator Danya Rumore’s GNAR Initiative to identify underserved, rural community concerns related to natural hazards and collaboratively develop tools and resources to increase their socio-economic and environmental resilience.

Many GNAR communities are experiencing, or likely soon will experience significant growth and development pressure, putting further strain on resources, and creating urgency for long-range planning. Many of them also have few, if any, paid planning staff and do not have the resources for long-range planning and hazard resilience. Additionally, many communities have a disproportionately high Latinx or immigrant populations, and due to their reliance on service, tourism, and/or agricultural industries, some have significant problems with income inequality and equity.

In Phase 1 (2021-2022), we will launch a needs survey to explore community concerns related to natural hazards and climate change, and identify what natural hazard and climate information they do (or do not) have access to, and what they need to better prepare for and respond to compound hazards in a changing climate. The results of this survey will be analyzed to inform future project phases and a report documenting the state of natural hazard and climate preparedness in western gateway and natural amenity region communities.

In Phase 2 (2022-2023), informed by the survey, we will organize 6 workshops (two each in Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming), to further explore our findings and get stakeholder input on what tools, resources, and approaches will help meet needs related to climate change and other natural hazards. We anticipate each of these workshops will include about 20 stakeholders from a range of rural communities. These workshops will be professionally facilitated by Dr. Rumore and will aim to engage participants in collaboratively identifying priority concerns and ways of responding to/addressing those concerns. We will engage diverse stakeholders representing a range of demographic groups and interest types, including underserved populations.

In Phase 3 (2023-2024), following the completion of the workshops, we will identify one rural town or city per state in which to pilot tools, resources, and approaches for helping communities explore and build their resilience to compound hazards. The exact tools, resources, and approaches we develop and pilot will reflect what we learn through the regional survey and workshops, but could take the form of collaborative scenario planning processes that engage diverse stakeholders to explore climate projections, sources of vulnerability, and strategies for increasing resilience.  We will use the three community pilot efforts to test and refine tools and resources, which we will then make widely available and usable by other rural communities. This may take the form of developing guidebooks, hosting webinars sharing our approach, and/or building toolkit pages to share generalizable information. 

Sign up to be on our email list!

Get news and updates from Western Water Assessment.

© 2021 Western Water Assessment