Edmonton

Three Alberta towns band together to prepare for climate change

Three northern Alberta towns have partnered to research how climate change affects rural areas through a program called Resilient Rurals. Bruderheim, Gibbons and Lamont, all towns northeast of Edmonton, are involved.

‘Those people are very closely tied to the land … their livelihoods depend on it’

Bruderheim initially developed a climate resilient action plan in 2016. (Jill Yanch)

Three northern towns in Alberta's Industrial Heartland have partnered to research how climate change affects rural areas through a program called Resilient Rurals

Bruderheim, Gibbons and Lamont, all towns northeast of Edmonton, are involved.

"There's a lot of attention on agriculture, but I feel there's a framework missing for rural communities to make those adaptations and those connections that will be critical," said Jill Yanch, the program's director. 

The program was built out of an existing action plan created for the town of Bruderheim, Alta. in 2016, which Yanch suggested could be developed into a regional project. 

Yanch, who is also an outreach and communications specialist for Bruderheim, said the majority of the climate change adaptation work which has already been completed has been centred around cities. 

'A more holistic way' 

The project plans to look at all of the potential impacts of climate change, including aspects which will influence their ability to respond to emergencies: human resources, financial resources, and infrastructure. 

"We wanted to look at it in a more holistic way," Yanch told CBC Radio's Radio Active.

Resilient Rurals recently completed a survey with feedback from residents in all three of the towns about the issues they may be sensitive to. 

"The impact on agriculture, including the difficulty in feeding and harvesting as well as crop yields, was a big concern," explained Yanch, who said the project is looking at everything from social problems to resource concerns. 

"Those people are very closely tied to the land … their livelihoods depend on it and I think that they would possibly see the impact of climate change even more than in urban centres." 

The survey also indicated that while community members feel prepared for severe storms with five days of food and water stockpiled, many critical elements were missing like understanding school emergency plans. 

The next step after the survey is to develop a communication plan. 

Yanch said they've realized if something like a natural disaster occurred, larger authorities would likely step in, so the role of the municipalities would focus on communicating to their residents.  

Resilient Rurals plans to complete a regional adaptation plan by the end of September. 

After that, Yanch said the three towns may use the plan as a launching point for their own individual projects, or they may continue to work together. 

Bruderheim and Gibbons are associate members of the Alberta's Industrial Heartland Association. Lamont County, where the town of Lamont is located, is a full member with voting rights.

With files from Madeleine Cummings

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