Norton Sound Communities Climate Adaptation Training (NSCCAT)

Studying coastline erosion means that Adrian needs to walk along the edge of the water, covering some difficult terrain. Frank Kelley (PolarTREC 2008), Courtesy of ARCUS

Studying coastline erosion. Photo by Frank Kelley (Courtesy of ARCUS)


As a result of climate change, Alaska Native communities are confronted by coastal erosion, flooding and related impacts to infrastructure, drinking water and human health. An observable rise in sea level is leading to increased storm intensity, while winter ice cover is reduced as Arctic temperatures rise, resulting in further sea level rise. In addition, increased stream temperatures, altered ice conditions, and increased stream bank erosion threaten to directly impact fishery and wildlife habitat and make traditional travel routes hazardous. Finally, reduced water quality with increased sedimentation, toxic effluents and other impacts from industrial and other development can exacerbate the effects of climate change on subsistence resources and human health. It is imperative that Alaska Native communities prepare to address these risks for each individual village.

The Adaptation Planning Process

In order to assist communities in the Norton Sound region to address the impacts from climate change, the Norton Bay Watershed Council (NBWC) and the Native Village of Elim (NVE), with grant funding from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, presented a one-year climate adaptation planning curriculum from July 2016 through May 2017. The curriculum informed and guided Alaskan Native tribal and community leaders and staff to develop Localized Climate Change Adaptation Plans (LCCAPs) through the process of assessing local climate risks; developing strategies to address those risks; and beginning to build the information, funding and resource capacity to take action for climate adaptation and community resilience.

Participants in the curriculum gained a better understanding of the impacts from climate change in Alaska, how that translates to locally specific climate risks, the range of adaptation options to address risks, and actions communities can take. Using a step-by-step process, participants now have the information and tools needed to write a local adaptation plan and take action in a variety of ways that make sense for their community.

Although the focus of the curriculum in 2016-2017 was on the tribal villages in the Norton Sound region, the curriculum was open to and applicable to a wide variety of tribes and villages across Alaska. The following is an overview of the curriculum learning modules, schedule and description of the content, methods of delivery, and potential costs for participants not covered by available funding:

The Training Team 

Unless otherwise indicated, Hal Shepherd, the Principal for Water Policy Consulting, LLC, and various representatives from the Model Forest Policy Program’s Climate Solutions University Team (MFPP) were the lead presenters for the trainings. Guest experts also participated in selected modules throughout the year.

Water Policy Consulting, LLC assists Alaska Native Communities in the areas of water resources research, data collection and monitoring; conducting watershed assessments and management plans; securing funding for water resource management and protection; climate adaptation and resiliency planning; and consultation on tribal sovereignty, arctic policy, human rights and water resource management.

The Model Forest Policy Program team members have been involved in the delivery of the Climate Solutions University program (CSU) for a number of years. The CSU program has provided training and facilitated climate adaptation planning for a total of 33 communities across the U.S.  The Native Village of Elim and the NBWC participated in the CSU program in 2013 and developed an adaptation plan for the Norton Bay area. The findings and recommendations of that plan can be applied to adaptation plans for the larger Norton Sound region and beyond.

Course Delivery Method

The curriculum was delivered through a combination of monthly educational webinars, face-to-face meetings in Nome, AK, and interactive conference calls. Each learning module included a variety of instructional methods, including presentations, case studies, discussions and interactive planning activities. For those communities fully engaged who intended to complete an adaptation plan by Spring 2017, a series of tools and resources was provided, including planning worksheets, checklists, analytical matrices, and an adaptation plan template that could be filled in step-by-step as we progressed through the curriculum. 

P.O. Box 15332, Fritz Creek, AK 99603
(907) 491-1355