The Beaverhead Watershed Committee has been participating in the National Drought Resilience Partnership pilot project since 2015, along with several other watershed groups in the Missouri headwaters region. The goal of this project is to enhance community drought resilience through effective collaboration among local stakeholders, and various state and Federal partners. Local stakeholders can provide the best insight into their community’s vulnerabilities to drought so that Federal partners such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Department of Interior, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) can more effectively contribute resources and expertise aimed at minimizing those vulnerabilities.
Here in Beaverhead County, the local economy is tied closely to the wellbeing of our farms, ranches, and fisheries. Given that drought is a common occurrence in southwest Montana, it is critical to minimize its impacts on our livelihoods through proactive planning. While it is difficult to avoid the economic and environmental impacts of drought, it is possible to enhance our ability to recover from those impacts. We can do this by monitoring data that may provide early warning of drought conditions, enhancing our crop and rangelands’ ability to utilize the water that is available, and protecting key habitat features that help fish survive during low flows and high temperatures. Proactive planning is a far more effective investment of our time, effort, and money than reactive relief measures.