Drought Planning and Tribal Nations
Proactive drought planning and risk mitigation are essential for communities to prepare for and cope with the impacts of drought. Tribal nations often face unique challenges in the drought planning process, including limited funding and a shortage of reservation-specific data and monitoring stations.
Over the past few years, an increasing number of tribal nations have worked to better understand drought occurrence and its impacts on their lands and livelihoods, and develop drought preparedness and response plans to help minimize these impacts. However, despite this planning, many tribal resource managers have expressed frustration that this has not always translated into action on the ground. A major reason for this has been the lack of adequate funding for implementation of drought resilience activities and the competing priorities of other emergencies, such as flooding.
Another key challenge voiced by tribal resource managers is that there is limited reservation-specific monitoring and forecasting data available for use by tribal nations. In many cases, tribal resource managers have to rely on county-level data, which is not always reliable or reflective of drought conditions on the reservations.
There are an increasing number of tribal nations taking action to better understand and prepare for drought conditions. Tribal drought activities include quarterly climate summaries and Drought Decision Dashboards for the Wind River Indian Reservation (see the case study below) and the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, in partnership with the High Plains Regional Climate Center, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Great Plains Tribal Water Alliance, and NIDIS. Additional regular activities include partnering on a monthly climate summary and outlook webinar series, delivered since 2012 for the North Central U.S.; and a webinar series with and for the New Mexico Pueblos, produced jointly with the Pueblo of Santa Ana Department of Natural Resources, NIDIS, the Quivira Coalition, USDA Southwest Climate Hub, and the New Mexico State Climate Office through the 2020 growing season.
Additional NIDIS support for tribal drought preparedness includes support for the Climate Assessment for the Southwest (CLIMAS, a NOAA RISA team) to collaborate with the Hopi Tribe Department of Natural Resources (HDNR) to develop a local drought information system. When the project started in 2010, there was a lack of weather and climate data that accurately and reliably captured local drought conditions on the Hopi Reservation. The purpose of the drought information system was to collect, analyze, and communicate local data and information that was relevant and appropriate for the Hopi Tribe’s needs in drought monitoring, response, and planning. The drought information system that was created was used to support informed decision making during drought and also for updating the Hopi drought mitigation and response plan. The process and methods used to engage the tribal community and co-create an effective and appropriate local drought information system were documented in this report and can be used to support the establishment of other local drought information systems.
These resources are critical to providing partners, including tribal nations, with the latest climate and drought conditions. There are also a growing number of technical and financial resources available for tribal nations to develop and implement drought-related plans.