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Climate Change

Great Plains

Adaptation Examples in the Great Plains

Map of the Great Plains region that runs south from Montana and North Dakota through parts of Wyoming, Colorado, and central Texas. This region also includes most of South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma.

Adaptation Examples in the Great Plains

Key Points
  • City departments in Austin, Texas are developing departmental climate protection plans that include adaptation strategies.
  • Conservation organizations such as Ducks Unlimited and the Rainwater Basin Joint Venture are protecting prairie potholes and playa lakes that provide essential habitat for migrating birds.
  • Wyoming's State Wildlife Action Plan incorporates consideration of climate change and adaptation.
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North Dakota




Federal and Regional

Efforts to prepare for likely climate change impacts are underway in the Great Plains — an area that stretches across the entire midsection of the country. Specifically, communities and resource managers in the Great Plains are preparing for more frequent heat waves and droughts. Learn more about climate change impacts in the Great Plains here.

Below are examples of ongoing local, state, and federal efforts to adapt to climate change impacts in the Great Plains. In the related links box on the side, there are additional links to a number of adaptation plans, reports, and studies specific to the region. The examples and links are intended to be illustrative and are not comprehensive.

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Austin, Texas prepares for climate change with departmental climate plans

Each municipal department in Austin, Texas is responsible for developing customized departmental climate plans that detail how the department will reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Several of the climate plans also address how the department will adapt to projected climate change impacts. For example, the Communications & Technology Management Department is designating a climate response coordinator to update its climate protection plan to include adaptation. [1] The Austin Water Utility Department (AWU) is preparing for water shortages during periods of drought as well as potential increases in pollution during periods of heavy rainfall. [2] To prepare, the AWU will help coordinate a multi-department approach to protect infrastructure and continue to participate in research on the impacts of climate change on water utilities.

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Private organizations protect wetlands in the Great Plains

Private organizations play an important role in protecting valuable wetland resources in the Great Plains. Although many of the plans to protect wetlands are not motivated explicitly by climate change, preserving wetlands helps the ecosystems be more resilient to changes — including climate change. For example:

Photograph of small black and yellow bird perched on reeds in water.

Many waterfowl and birds rely on seasonal wetlands, like this prairie pothole in South Dakota. Source: USFWS

  • Ducks Unlimited Exit EPA Disclaimer , a North American wetland and waterfowl conservation group, is coordinating a project (PDF) Exit EPA Disclaimer to prevent wetlands in the Prairie Pothole region of the Great Plains from being converted into agricultural land.
  • Since 2001, the Rainwater Basin Joint Venture (RBJV) Exit EPA Disclaimer has been collecting aerial photographs of playa wetlands to assess how they are changing. To adapt to a potentially drier future climate, one project reestablished the natural waterways that flow to and from the wetlands.

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Wyoming outlines a strategy to protect wildlife from climate change impacts

The U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provide funding for states to develop State Wildlife Action Plans (SWAP). While the funding does not require that states plan for climate change, the agencies encourage states to develop projects that minimize climate change impacts on wildlife. In 2010, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department updated the Wyoming SWAP Exit EPA Disclaimer to integrate climate change into wildlife management activities. [3] Some of the key components of Wyoming's updated SWAP plan are to identify strategies that would be beneficial under any one of a range of plausible future climate conditions, to use "adaptive management" to repeatedly evaluate and adjust goals and strategies, to expand data collection protocols so that habitat and ecosystem monitoring includes climate change impacts, and to promote habitat connectivity.

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[1] City of Austin, Texas – Communications and Technology Management Department (2010). Departmental Climate Protection Plan. (PDF) Exit EPA Disclaimer

[2] City of Austin, Texas – Austin Water Utility department (2010). Departmental Climate Protection Plan. Exit EPA Disclaimer

[3] Wyoming Game and Fish Department (2010). Wyoming State Wildlife Action Plan – Climate Change. Exit EPA Disclaimer

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