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Guest Opinions

New Efforts to Increase Resilience Embrace Adaptive Management

Written by Windy Kelley and Justin Derner

The USDA Northern Plains Regional Climate Hub (NPRCH) is one of seven hubs announced by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack in February 2014. The Climate Hubs are designed to provide information to farmers, ranchers and forest landowners on the increasing risk of fires, pests, floods, droughts and other associated effects of changing climate and extreme weather events.

In April 2015, the Secretary announced 10 Building Blocks, which are voluntary, incentive-based adaptive management practices for working lands that provide multiple economic and environmental benefits while also increasing resilience to a changing climate and extreme weather events.

The Building Blocks are also designed to meet the needs of agricultural producers by increasing productivity and improving efficiency, and to build partnerships among stakeholders.

The USDA NPRCH hosted a Building Blocks workshop for USDA family agencies and land-grant university and state climate office partners March 15-16 in Casper. The purpose of the workshop was to share information among the agencies, universities and climate offices and to identify needs and opportunities in the region that correspond with the Building Blocks.

What are the 10 Building Blocks?

Soil Health is one of the 10 building blocks with a goal to improve soil resilience and increase productivity. Here, keys are to minimize soil disturbance; maximize the diversity of plants in rotation or cover crops; keep living roots in the soil as much as possible; keep the soil covered with plants and plant residue at all times; and incorporate livestock into the cropping system where possible.

Grazing and Pasture Lands is another Building Block focused on supporting prescribed grazing management and avoiding soil carbon loss through improved management of forage, soils and grazing livestock.

Another is Nitrogen Stewardship, with emphasis on the four Rs – the right fertilizer source, at right rate, at the right time and in the right place. 

Other building blocks include Energy Generation and Efficiency; Stewardship of Federal Forests; and Livestock Partnerships.

To learn more about the Building Blocks and to view all 10, including a description of each, visit 1.usa.gov/1MNwa7Y.

The workshop was productive, and the USDA NPRCH looks forward to continuing conversations among agency, university and climate offices throughout the region.

Additionally, the USDA NPRCH looks forward to continuing to work with agricultural producers in each state to share the latest research related to adapting to weather and extreme events and to learn from agricultural producers what information they want and need and when they need it to make more informed decisions. This includes identifying research and Extension opportunities in collaboration with agricultural producers and applying for funding to support such efforts.

If you’re a producer and you’re interested in exploring how you can work with the USDA NPRCH contact Windy Kelley, USDA NPRCH Regional Extension Program Coordinator, at 307-766-2205 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..