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Northern Plains Drought Update & Outlook - Tribal Webinar: June 23, 2021

Event Date
June 23, 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.

The second webinar in this series included an update on the current drought situation and outlook, an overview of impacts on rangelands, and actions for drought mitigation on tribal lands, including a focus on water quality and quantity.



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

  • Conditions generally are dry to extremely dry, with heat taking its toll since June 1.
  • The short-term outlook (next two weeks) shows a brief cool-down over the weekend but then heat, mostly in the Upper Missouri River Basin. Precipitation favors below-normal conditions.
  • The longer-term outlook (monthly to seasonal) shows above-normal temperatures, with some extreme heat likely. Overall, drier conditions are expected to continue in the Upper Missouri River Basin.
  • The main impacts and concerns are wildfire, smoke, water quantity and quality, agriculture (crops/grazing), recreation, and health (human/livestock).



Rangeland Drought Planning and Resources

Speaker: Darrel Duvall and Stan Boltz, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service

  • Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Financial Assistance Programs can be and are often used on Trust Lands. NRCS can have financial contracts with tribal governments or tribal corporations/individuals.
  • NRCS uses planning processes to manage or improve natural resources: soil, water, air, plants, animals, and energy. The planning process takes into account an inventory of land characteristics, experience, and equipment; it then involves formulating options and developing and evaluating the plan. Options that NRCS can provide (examples): conducting an assessment of reliable water supplies, helping to reduce fuel for wildfires, and building new ponds or grazing systems.
  • Financial programs are available for working lands: Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP).
  • Every 1% increase in organic matter results in as much as 25,000 gallons of available soil water per acre (this is on rangeland or cropland). Land that is in good condition going into a drought will produce more quantity and quality during the drought, and is found to rebound more rapidly after drought ends. Drought planning is key.
  • NRCS South Dakota Drought Tool (specific for grasslands)



Drought Assistance Programs for Agriculture

Speaker: Zane Not Afraid, The Intertribal Agriculture Council

  • Resources that are available from USDA for tribal nations include: Livestock Forage Program, Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP), Emergency Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) Haying and Grazing, Emergency Livestock Assistance Program (ELAP), Hay Hotlines, and U.S. Drought Monitor Reporting.
  • Hay Hotlines: North Dakota (701-425-8454), Montana (406-444-2402), Nebraska (402-471-4876)
  • Intertribal Agriculture Council points of contact: Fanny Brewer (ND, SD, NE), Desbah Padilla (CO, NM), Zane Not Afraid (MT, WY)
  • The South Dakota Soil Health Coalition also has a Grazing Exchange website where you can find people who have forage or animals. 



Water Quality Concerns for Livestock

Speaker: Miranda Meehan, North Dakota State University Extension

  • Water quality has been significantly impacted during this drought. Concerns during drought include total dissolved solids (TDS), sulfates, and cyanobacteria. The webinar provides various thresholds that are hurtful to livestock, as well as symptoms for each issue. Also, information is provided on how to monitor TDS and sulfates with various meters and test strips.
  • Cyanobacteria (neurotoxins, hepatotoxins): Exclude animals from these sources until the algae bloom clears up (and one week after) due to high risk to livestock. Unfortunately there is not a good test for these besides visual observation. 
  • Water testing is available at Extension county offices, as well as Soil Conservation Districts. 
  • To date in North Dakota, North Dakota State University Extension has done over 500 samples during this drought, and 35 have had toxic TDS, 43 toxic sulfate, and 3 cyanobacteria.
  • Solutions: Restrict or eliminate access, provide/use alternative water, and develop water assistance programs in the long term.
  • North Dakota Extension Livestock Water Resources.




  • This is the second webinar in a series focused on drought (the first webinar recording is here). The next webinar will be in late July, and more information will be sent out soon.


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.