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Northern Plains Drought Update & Outlook – Tribal Webinar: July 27, 2021

Event Date
July 27, 2021
Event Time
10:00 am - 11:00 am

Drought in the Northern Plains continues to worsen, and widespread impacts are being felt, including impacts on tribal lands in the region. In order to provide up-to-date information on the drought and its impacts, and associated resources for tribal nations, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U.S. Geological Survey, and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have partnered to host a drought webinar series this summer specifically for the tribal nations in the Northern Plains.

This third webinar, which took place on July 27 at 10 a.m. MDT/11 a.m. CDT focused on the impacts of drought on fish and wildlife in the Upper Missouri River Basin, as well as resources that are available from federal agencies for tribal nations to address these issues. The webinar also included an update on the current drought and outlook information.


Welcome to the Northern Plains Drought Update and Outlook Tribal Webinar

Speaker: Stefan Tangen, North Central Climate Adaptation Science Center (CASC)



Current Conditions and Outlook

Speaker: Doug Kluck, NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information

  • Over the last 30 days, temperatures have been above average, especially in Montana, the Dakotas, Wyoming, and Minnesota. Precipitation has mostly been below normal across many areas. Pockets of exceptional drought (D4) are present in North Dakota and Montana currently, likely expanding over the next few weeks/months.
  • Soil moisture and streamflow are both significantly below normal in portions of the Upper Missouri River Basin.
  • Very little rainfall is expected across Montana, North Dakota, portions of South Dakota, and Minnesota over the next 7 days (through August 3, 2021). Wyoming and southern portions of the Missouri River Basin could receive significant rainfall.
  • For the August 3–9 time frame, hot conditions are likely to continue. However, near-normal precipitation is predicted, which would be better than what has been happening recently.
  • For the month of August and the seasonal outlook (August–October), above-normal temperatures and below-normal precipitation are expected in the Upper Missouri River Basin.
  • To stay informed about the current conditions and outlooks, please register for the next webinar on August 5 and for the regular monthly North Central U.S. webinar on August 19.



Recent Drought Impacts on Fish and Wildlife

Speaker: Dennis Longknife, Fort Belknap Indian Community

  • The Fort Belknap Indian Community in northern Montana has been experiencing drought since early 2021. Many streams on their land have been completely dry since the beginning of June. There is some water available for livestock, but not enough for fish. There are native minnows in their streams that will go dry soon, and they are trying to get water to these areas to fill. This drought came on too fast for their planning.
  • One of their buffalo pastures dried up at the beginning of July, but luckily they have two more reservoirs that are a bit deeper and still have water. However, they are running into water quality issues. Waterfowl species have been using these reservoirs, as well as ducks.
  • In a typical year, grassland bird species are usually singing this time of year but it is really quiet right now. They have also had a lot of issues with grasshoppers, including damage to hay. Getting adequate water and feed to livestock has been another challenge.
  • Native grasslands were late to grow this year due to cold spells in April through May, and when they did start to grow, precipitation was minimal; therefore, very few native grasses have been able to survive.
  • Last week, the reservation did get a little bit of rain that filled some depressional areas with water. The prairie dogs and buffalo were walking to this site to drink water. Unfortunatel,y the prairie potholes were not filled though.
  • The tribe officially made a drought declaration in June 2021. The tribal council, producers, and others have been having frequent meetings to discuss the drought and its challenges. They have also been working with federal agencies and others to obtain assistance.



U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Drought Resources

Speaker: Melissa Castiano, Mountain-Prairie Region, USFWS

  • Melissa’s role as the Native American Liaison is to provide leadership on tribal engagement and relations within the Mountain-Prairie Region and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a whole. She provides guidance and training to USFWS biologists on engaging with the tribes that they work with in their position.
  • USFWS has programs available to tribal nations, including the Tribal Wildlife Grants, Tribal Conservation Officer Training, and the Native Youth Community Adaptation and Leadership Congress.
  • The Tribal Wildlife Grants provide a competitive funding opportunity for federally recognized tribal governments to develop and implement programs for the benefit of wildlife and their habitat. Types of activities for the grants may include planning for wildlife and habitat conservation, fish and wildlife conservation and management actions, and public education. Denise Sanchez ( is the coordinator.
  • Tribal Conservation Officer Training is a partnership between USFWS, the Native American Fish and Wildlife Society, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs where they train tribal officers in the effort to fight against illegal take of wildlife. This is a 4-hour in-service training program in the summer.
  • The Native Youth Community Adaptation and Leadership Congress is an initiative that invites native communities to work together to address conservation challenges in a changing environment.

Speaker: George Jordan, Montana Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office, USFWS



NIDIS Coping with Drought—Building Tribal Drought Resilience Grant Opportunity

Speaker: Britt Parker, NOAA's National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS)

  • We wanted to highlight a current grant competition that is open right now. There are two competitions for FY22, one on ecological drought and one on tribal drought resilience. More grant information can be found online.
  • For the Building Tribal Drought Resilience competition, we are looking for applications to fund the implementation of actions, together with research on those actions, to build drought resilience contained in existing plans and strategies.
  • Important guideline: Proposals will demonstrate full partnership with tribal nations by including at least one full investigator on the project representing a federally-recognized tribe.
  • Letters of Intent are due August 9, 2021 by 5 p.m. Eastern and full proposals are due October 18, 2021 by 5 p.m. Eastern.





Key Partners

This webinar was organized by the NOAA National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS), USGS North Central Climate Adaptation Science Center, NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) Regional Climate Services, High Plains Regional Climate Center, and USDA Northern Plains Climate Hub.