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Shannon M. McNeeley

Abstract

Much of the academic literature and policy discussions about sustainable development and climate change adaptation focus on poor and developing nations, yet many tribal communities inside the United States include marginalized peoples and developing nations who face structural barriers to effectively adapt to climate change. There is a need to critically examine diverse climate change risks for indigenous peoples in the United States and the many structural barriers that limit their ability to adapt to climate change. This paper uses a sustainable climate adaptation framework to outline the context and the relationships of power and authority, along with different ways of knowing and meaning, to illustrate the underpinnings of some tribes’ barriers to sustainable climate adaptation. The background of those structural barriers for tribes is traced, and then the case of water rights and management at the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming is used to illustrate the interplay of policy, culture, climate, justice, and limits to adaptation. Included is a discussion about how the rulings of the Big Horn general stream adjudication have hindered tribal climate change adaptation by limiting the quantity of tribal reserved water rights, tying those rights to the sole purposes of agriculture, which undermines social and cultural connections to the land and water, and failing to recognizing tribal rights to groundwater. Future climate projections suggest increasing temperatures, and changes in the amount and timing of snowpack, along with receding glaciers, all of which impact water availability downstream. Therefore, building capacity to take control of land and water resources and preparing for climate change and drought at Wind River Reservation is of critical importance.

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Shannon M. McNeeley and Heather Lazrus

Abstract

The way in which people perceive climate change risk is informed by their social interactions and cultural worldviews comprising fundamental beliefs about society and nature. Therefore, perceptions of climate change risk and vulnerability along with people’s “myths of nature”—that is, how groups of people conceptualize the way nature functions—influence the feasibility and acceptability of climate adaptation planning, policy making, and implementation. This study presents analyses of cultural worldviews that broaden the current treatments of culture and climate change mitigation and adaptation decision making in communities. The authors use insights from community-based climate research and engage the Cultural Theory of Risk conceptual framework to situate community understandings of, and responses to, climate impacts. This study looks at how the issue of climate change manifests socially in four cases in the United States and Tuvalu and how ideas about climate change are produced by the institutional cultural contexts across scales from the local to the global. This approach helps us identify local and regional priorities and support the development of new relationships for adaptation research and planning by helping to diagnose barriers to climate change adaptation, assist improved communication through framing/reframing climate issues based on shared understandings and collective learning, and help move from conflict to cooperation through better negotiation of diverse worldviews.

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Shannon M. McNeeley and Heather Lazrus
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Tyler A. Beeton and Shannon M. McNeeley

Abstract

Although drought is a natural part of climate across the north-central United States, how drought is experienced and responded to is the result of complex biophysical and social processes. Climate change assessments indicate drought impacts will likely worsen in the future, which will further challenge decision-making. Here, a drought management decision typology is empirically developed from synthesis of three in-depth case studies using a modified grounded-theory approach. The typology highlights 1) the entity or entities involved, 2) management sectors, 3) decision types, 4) spatial and temporal scale(s) of decision-making, and 5) barriers that inhibit decision-making. Findings indicate similarities in decision types and barriers across cases. Changes in operations, practices, or behaviors; information and technology; and legal or policy changes were the most common decision types, while commonly cited barriers were institutional constraints, fragmented decision-making, and limited personnel and financial resources. Yet barriers and responses also differed within and between sectors and jurisdictions. Several barriers inhibited anticipatory, regional, and interagency drought response, such as limited institutional support, competing mandates, limited resources, lack of usable information, limits to interagency fund transfers, and historical context and distrust among entities. Findings underscore the importance of documenting nuanced decision-making in local places and broader generalizations in decision-making across scales. This contributes to the goal of developing drought science that is actionable for decision-making.

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Shannon M. McNeeley, Tyler A. Beeton, and Dennis S. Ojima

Abstract

Drought is a natural part of the historical climate variability in the northern Rocky Mountains and high plains region of the United States. However, recent drought impacts and climate change projections have increased the need for a systematized way to document and understand drought in a manner that is meaningful to public land and resource managers. The purpose of this exploratory study was to characterize the ways in which some federal and tribal natural resource managers experienced and dealt with drought on lands managed by the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) and tribes in two case site examples (northwest Colorado and southwest South Dakota) that have experienced high drought exposure in the last two decades. The authors employed a social–ecological system framework, whereby key informant interviews and local and regional drought indicator data were used characterize the social and ecological factors that contribute to drought vulnerability and the ways in which drought onset, persistence, severity, and recovery impact management. Results indicated that local differences in the timing, decisions, and specific management targets defined within the local social–ecological natural resource contexts are critical to understanding drought impacts, vulnerabilities, and responses. These findings suggest that manager-defined social–ecological contexts are critically important to understand how drought is experienced across the landscape and the indices that are needed to inform adaptation and response strategies.

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Corrine Noel Knapp, Shannon M. McNeeley, John Gioia, Trevor Even, and Tyler Beeton

Abstract

Many rural communities in the western United States are surrounded by public lands and are dependent on these landscapes for their livelihoods. Climate change threatens to affect land-based livelihoods through both direct impacts and public land agency decision-making in response to impacts. This project was designed to understand how Bureau of Land Management (BLM) permittees, including ranching and recreation-based businesses in Colorado, are vulnerable to both climate change and management responses and how permittees and the BLM are adapting and could adapt to these changes. We conducted 60 interviews in two BLM field offices to gather permittee and agency employees’ observations of change, impacts, responses, and suggestions for adaptive actions. Data suggested that permittees are dependent on BLM lands and are sensitive to ecological and management changes and that current management policies and structures are often a constraint to adaptation. Managers and permittees are already seeing synergistic impacts, and the BLM has capacity to facilitate or constrain adaptation actions. Participants suggested increased flexibility at all scales, timelier within-season adjustments, and extension of current collaborative efforts to assist adaptation efforts and reduce impacts to these livelihoods.

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Shannon M. McNeeley, Sarah A. Tessendorf, Heather Lazrus, Tanya Heikkila, Ian M. Ferguson, Jennifer S. Arrigo, Shahzeen Z. Attari, Christina M. Cianfrani, Lisa Dilling, Jason J. Gurdak, Stephanie K. Kampf, Derek Kauneckis, Christine J. Kirchhoff, Juneseok Lee, Benjamin R. Lintner, Kelly M. Mahoney, Sarah Opitz-Stapleton, Pallav Ray, Andy B. South, Andrew P. Stubblefield, and Julie Brugger
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