Natural resource managers face the tremendous challenge of developing and implementing management actions that help ecosystems respond to climate change. Forestry stakeholders in the City of Durango, Colorado were invited to participate in a one-day workshop exploring climate change impacts and adaptation strategies for the City of Durango's Community Forests. This workshop took place at the Durango Public Library from 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM on Monday, December 2 2019.
- Provide information on the current and anticipated effects of climate change on the City of Durango Community Forests,
- Describe resources and tools that can be used to integrate climate change into management,
- Outline adaptation concepts and strategies in the context of sustainable forest management, and
- Identify actions that enhance the ability of forests and other ecosystems to adapt to changing conditions.
The City of Durango Parks and Recreation helped set the stage for the workshop with a presentation on the Durango Community Forest Management Plan by Scott McClain, Assistant Parks Director. Emile Elias, Director, Southwest Climate Hub & Research Hydrologist, USDA ARS – Jornada Experimental Range, gave a presentation on regional and local climate change impacts and vulnerabilities for Durango's community forests.
Partners from the USDA Forest Service and The Nature Conservancy also traveled from Washington and New Mexico to provide information on tools and adaptation examples for "climate-ready trees." Andrew Bower, Area Geneticist and Pacific Northwest Region WBP Restoration Program Lead, USDA Forest Service, covered tree genetics and the Seedlot Selection Tool. Sarah Hurteau, Urban Conservation Director, The Nature Conservancy, presented an example of how the City of Albuquerque, NM has been selecting "Climate Ready Trees for Albuquerque's Urban Forest."
This active, hands-on training is being organized by the City of Durango Parks and Recreation Department and Sustainability Division, Colorado State University, the Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science, and the USDA Southwest Climate Hub.
Real-world examples of adaptation projects were featured, and participants engaged in a variety of interactive activities to identify climate change issues and potential adaptation actions.
Some of the key takeaways from the workshop discussions and activities were that:
- Business as usual management practices are inconsistent with meeting existing Community Forest management objectives under projected future climate conditions, and
- There is potential to work with local partners to begin adaptation now and therefore improve long-term adaptive capacity of Durango’s urban forest.
Climate Change Issues & Potential Adaptation Actions
By the end of the workshop, 5 separate breakout groups presented their goals, climate impacts, adaptation strategies, and monitoring considerations for selected projects, which included:
- Developing landscape restoration and revegetation plans for open space areas
- Creating common garden trials to test the suitability of future-adapted tree species from southern seed sources in City Parks and with local schools
- Increasing community involvement in urban forestry efforts and increasing native, future-adapted tree species in Durango's City Parks
- Creating a tree guide, including tree care and maintenance for homeowners, for new development areas around the Three Springs HOA
- Maintaining and increasing connectivity to riparian forests to help sustain wildlife populations, mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, and improve downstream water quality in the Oxbow Preserve
Possible Next Steps
At the end of the workshop, each participant wrote down three next steps they planned to take based on the presentations, activities, and discussions during the workshop. Some of the highlighted next steps that workshop participants will potentially pursue in the future include:
- Revise Durango’s ~10 year old Tree and Shrub Guide in light of climate projections to include species adapted to warmer future climates
- Present an overview of key takeaways on climate change impacts and adaptation strategies to the City Parks and Recreation boards
- The Botanical Society will review their list of trees for future planting efforts
- Work with City parks and schools to test the suitability of future-adapted tree species from southern seed sources
- Develop guidelines and outreach around green stormwater and low impact development options
- Integrate climate projections and adaptation considerations into upcoming large developments
- Explore opportunities for citizen science and Fort Lewis College student projects to implement and monitor urban forests