by Tatum Thomas
“What is resiliency?” This question filled the conference room in the Hill County Library as business owners, executive directors, and other prominent community influencers gathered together. The Resilient Montana summit series is taking place in 19 regions across the state with the goal of identifying specific stressors and shocks in local communities. The summits will eventually lead up to the development of a Resiliency Framework for Montana. This framework will be an action plan that addresses the environmental, economic, and societal challenges as they relate to each other and communities in Montana. The focus of the project is to identify how a changing environment with more frequent droughts, extreme summers and winters, and shocks like wildfires will affect Montanans so that we can come up with a successful plan to react to these changes in a proactive way. During the meeting, individuals identified stressors and shocks here in Hill County and along the High-Line and rated their priority. Following the brainstorming session, the room was broken up into smaller groups. Each group focused on a different aspect of the framework such as infrastructure, environmental and watershed health, and community. As the groups presented their examples, they all came to the same conclusion — each issue was related inextricably with the others. For example, there was no way to have a prospering community without a healthy environment and poor infrastructure affects the health of the environment.
Throughout the meeting, AmeriCorps VISTAs Blake and Betsy took notes of the concerns and ideas brought up. They facilitated discussion and asked the group to rate the stressors and shocks listed by importance. At the end of the meeting, they assured the group that as they compile the data, they’ll be sending out the notes and that a Resiliency Framework should be out in 2019. Having so many involved people in one room together thinking critically about the challenges Montanans face as the environment and society change and what their implications are was an encouraging experience, to say the least. It was also great to see people realizing the connectedness of various issues, especially environmental changes. Sometimes people think that changes in our climate aren’t a problem here but this activity successfully demonstrated that everywhere is affected, just differently, and that changes in the environment affect many other aspects of our lives. It’s hopeful to know that there are people in every community that care about how the world around them is changing and hope to rise above the status quo to mitigate the effects these changes have on us. There was a lot of excitement in the community that we can work together to make changes to overall better our communities and that’s something to look forward to.
Tatum Thomas is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies and Sustainable Food Systems at Montana State University. She is a member of the Land Resources and Environmental Science club and has been involved in many small community sustainability projects in her Maine hometown. Prior to joining Energy Corps, she also worked as a lab technician in stream ecology research. Tatum joined Energy Corps in June 2018 and will serve at Opportunity Link in Havre, assisting with education and outreach. She will develop educational materials and facilitate hands-on learning, as well as conducting presentations. She will also assist in organizing activities with the local community.