Building Climate Readiness in Nature-Based Tourism-Dependent Communities along the North Shore of Lake Superior: Project Overview and Development of an Adaptation Plan Evaluation Matrix

- Indicates paper has been withdrawn from meeting
- Indicates an Award Winner
Wednesday, 7 January 2015: 9:15 AM
130 (Phoenix Convention Center - West and North Buildings)
Karly Bitsura-Meszaros, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC; and J. W. Smith, M. Davenport, E. Seekamp, and D. Anderson

Coastal tourism is a major economic driver in Minnesota's northeast region. Destination tourism on Lake Superior's north shore is motivated by the area's natural assets that span the Superior National Forest, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, State Forests and Parks, the Superior Hiking Trail, North Shore Scenic Drive and also a variety of county and private landholdings. The region exceeds state averages in participation rates for gathering wild foods, off-road ATV driving, snowmobiling, hunting and fishing (Davenport et al., 2011). However, recent surveys have shown a decline in recreation participation across the region; a lack of time, increased financial costs and an increased prevalence of outdoor pests have been cited by Minnesotans as major barriers to travel and recreation participation (Kelly, 2005). Climate change and related impacts have the potential to exacerbate these constraints, and could negatively impact local communities' economic livelihood. The nature-based tourism-dependent communities of the north shore are especially susceptible to climate change and associated ecological impacts. Physical events such as extreme rain events, delayed lake freeze dates and decreased snow depths can impact access to and enjoyment of the area's recreation and tourism opportunities (Mendelsohn & Markowski, 2004). The perception of risk associated with climate and ecological impacts can also affect participation and visitation (Scott et al., 2007). Changes in recreation demand influence resource managers' decisions regarding the allocation of resources and also alter tourism expenditures at recreation sites and within adjacent communities.

In this presentation, we provide an overview of an ongoing multidisciplinary, mixed-methods community-based research and outreach project focused on assessing and building climate readiness. This investigation of destination risk and adaptive capacity will focus on three nature-based tourism-dependent communities along Lake Superior's north shore: Grand Marais, Lutsen and Finland. The project's specific objectives are to: 1) assess adaptive capacity; 2) model climate-hydrologic impacts; 3) develop ecological destination risk scenarios; 4) measure and model tourism demand; 5) develop sociological destination risk scenarios; 6) integrate data into a series of socio-economic systems destination risk scenarios; and 7) create and deliver geovisualization-based decision support tools for adaptive planning. We highlight each specific objectives' role in developing more informed sector- and place-based solutions to the challenges facing coastal communities impacted by changing climatic conditions.

We also provide initial detailed results of an evaluation of all of the region's hazard mitigation and emergency management plans, land use management plans and climate adaptation plans. The evaluation provides a baseline understanding of the extent of federal, state, municipal and private entities' proactive planning efforts. The evaluation process is essential to identifying weaknesses in the region's collective ability to anticipate and respond to known climate-related environmental stressors. The plan evaluation involved three complementary components: 1) identifying the biophysical and socio-economic resources addressed by each plan; 2) spatially mapping the extent of resources covered by those plans; and 3) gauging the amount and sources of financial capital dedicated to plan implementation and management. These three components are synthesized in a climate change adaptation plan evaluation matrix. The matrix serves as a visualization tool to identify specific strengths and weaknesses in the region's existing statutory capacity to respond local ecological and economic change. The matrix will be used in subsequent collaborative workshops and focus groups with local stakeholders as part of the project's community-based outreach and engagement efforts. We present on the current status of these efforts as well as ongoing work to test the external validity of the matrix in other regionally distinct nature-based tourism-dependent communities.

The climate readiness project as a whole identifies and models key assets, vulnerabilities and economic impacts associated with environmental changes driven by increasingly variable climatic conditions. In addition, it aims to build capacity for adaptive planning and increase climate readiness in the communities by: a) identifying culturally and economically significant ecosystem services at risk; and b) working with local community members and key stakeholders to identify potential opportunities to either mitigate or cope with those risks. The development of a climate change adaptation plan evaluation matrix plays a key role in this process as it provides a comprehensive yet easily interpretable understanding of the region's existing capacities to respond to known climate-related environmental changes, such as alterations the characteristics and quality of existing recreational amenities. The climate change adaptation plan evaluation matrix, developed to evaluate existing planning documents, can have a broader impact when employed to evaluate other coastal communities and adaptation planning processes.