Because drought is a widespread phenomenon that impacts numerous sectors of society from federal to local levels, representatives of the EPC working group approached this endeavor by following a framework for a problem-centered multi-stakeholder network. To initiate this process, the working group has invited drought professionals from across the country to participate in a series of short surveys aimed at identifying: (1) stakeholder preferences for the organizational structure and communication frequency and methods for the network of drought professionals, (2) additional stakeholders at local levels, (3) drought knowledge and lessons learned, and (4) a variety of other drought management and planning topics. A sequence of web engagement forums will follow each survey to acquaint drought professionals through the use of public participation methods. These interactive web forums will enable drought professionals to communicate and exchange information and ideas on a more frequent basis than time and travel budgets may allow. Topics for these web forums will be driven by survey results, stakeholder activities, and current NIDIS information. In addition, an annual stakeholder workshop will be held to allow for face-to-face interaction and networking. Through these activities, the EPC working group strives to help communities at all levels put planning into practice using the most recent drought planning research and by incorporating successes and avoiding failures experienced by other communities. Virtual communities on the U.S. Drought Portal will help maintain the network and allow for asynchronous interaction among drought stakeholders.
Early survey results indicate enthusiasm for this effort from stakeholders from a variety of sectors and including: academia, agriculture, government, the media, and private industry. We will present a synthesis and an early evaluation of the EPC activities.