Extension will collaborate with GLISA, Michigan communities on planning for climate variability

Project receives funding to increase community resilience.

Following the extreme weather events of 2012 that contributed to the loss of more than 90 percent of the state’s tree fruit crop, calls to Michigan State University (MSU) Extension increased. Many farmers and local municipal officials asked about climate change and how to minimize future risks.

While it’s very difficult to predict specific weather events with any accuracy more than 12 or so days in the future, the majority of climate scientists agree that the Midwest’s climate of the future is likely to include greater variability in temperature and precipitation.

“Certain communities in Michigan, such as those economically dependent on tourism and food production, are particularly vulnerable to the effects of a changing and variable climate,” said Claire Layman, MSU Extension educator.

A team of MSU Extension specialists and educators have received funding from the Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessments Center (GLISA) to collaborate with GLISA researchers, relevant decision-makers and stakeholders in two Michigan local governments units. The primary goal of the project, titled “Adapting to Climate Change and Variability: Planning Tools for Michigan Communities,” is to increase community resilience by incorporating climate variability and change adaption strategies into local land use master plans and policies. The second goal of the project is to create an assessment tool that can be used by other communities throughout Michigan.

Wayne Beyea, Julie E. Doll, Ph.D., Claire Layman, Mark Skidmore, Ph.D., and Dean Solomon comprise the grant team. They bring to the project expertise in land use planning and zoning, agriculture, collaboration strategies and economics.

The team chose to focus the project on local elected and appointed officials and farmer stakeholders. Local elected and appointed officials make decisions about their community’s built and natural environments that impact residents for decades. Famers are a primary focus because their management decisions affect not only their fields, but also the surrounding communities, landscapes and ecosystems. Additional stakeholders may include representatives from neighborhood associations, religious organizations, public health officials, agricultural processors, emergency services officials, economic development groups and other key leaders identified by the community.

This project will receive $49,000 for a one-year duration. The process will include community stakeholders reviewing and making sense of relevant GLISA data, as well as specially-prepared maps of the community and a localized climate adaptation assessment tool. The deliberation will include face-to-face discussions with diverse stakeholder groups to weigh the benefits and tradeoffs of choosing certain adaptation measures. In the end, this endeavor will result in a model process that can be replicated in other Michigan communities.

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