Building Resilient Communities

People living in the Intermountain West are no strangers to coping with and adapting to a variable and changing environment. Agriculture and ranching co-exist with burgeoning urban centers that represent a growing competition for limited water supplies, pushing development into fire-prone or flood-prone areas. Energy production has also been a major theme, driving settlement, economic activity, environmental concerns, and “job boom and bust” cycles in some areas. The shift away from fossil fuel is going to differentially affect communities dependent on those extractive industries. 

Extreme weather events, climate change, and rapid demographic changes are challenging the resilience of communities in the Intermountain West like never before. These extreme events often connect and intersect with underlying social and physical vulnerabilities in ways that impact communities more than if simply occurring in isolation. Cascading impacts to other critical areas like tourism and recreation, water availability and quality, and public health will affect local community economies and health in ways that we are just beginning to understand. Indigenous, rural, and other frontline communities are particularly vulnerable to these compounding hazards and impacts.

WWA is expanding our work with communities in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming, with a particular focus on frontline communities. Our work has shown that while many of these communities have a strong desire to build resilience, they face challenges that can make it difficult for them to navigate the broad range of existing tools and data sources, access support to optimize the effectiveness of their planning processes, and obtain local and sector-relevant information.

The following projects advance our work to build resilient communities in the region. We also welcome requests and suggestions from communities!

VCAPS in the Mountain West

Goal of VCAPS

Originally developed by the Carolinas Integrated Sciences and Assessments (CISA) RISA program and the Social Environmental Research Institute (SERI), VCAPS helps communities become more resilient to weather and climate change

VCAPS is designed to support communities to:

  • Engage in dialogue about the impacts of future weather and climate threats

  • Summarize and integrate local knowledge and experience about how the community will be impacted 

  • Identify gaps in data, knowledge, or understanding

  • Think strategically about actions that can be taken to increase resilience in the short and long term


Why VCAPS is unique:

  • VCAPS is not just about providing climate information; the process helps local decision-makers use a systems-thinking approach to make sense of how climate and weather hazards are linked to multiple social, economic, health and other consequences in their community; it connects knowledge with local adaptation options.

  • VCAPS helps communities create an inventory of public and private actions that can be taken to reduce vulnerability to a specific hazard from multiple angles. Actions are documented in real-time in diagrams.

  • The process itself is designed to generate dialogue, shared understanding, and collective commitment and accountability to action.

  • In essence: VCAPS provides structured discussion so a group can pool their knowledge of an issue in an efficient manner and document it visually.

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