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At the 2016 Rural Climate Dialogues State Convening, IATP and the Jefferson Center gathered residents from three rural Minnesotan counties and staff from ten state agencies to strategize on how to meet rural communities’ needs through existing state program offerings. Rural residents and agency staff recommended building a State Program Navigator for local government officials to view and learn how to access state program offerings in one place.

IATP’s new report, “Building Rural Climate Resilience: The Role of Minnesota State Agencies,” was written based on this recommendation. The report profiles 15 state-led programs in depth and outlines an additional 45 in an appendix that can serve rural communities in meeting their climate goals.

“There was a strong desire for communities to access resources presented to them in a collected form that can be digested as more of a menu to consider,” said Michelle Gransee, the State Energy Office Clean Energy & Programs Manager.

As climate impacts worsen across Minnesota and the United States, all communities—rural or urban—need the financial and technical tools to adapt to these changes. The Minnesota state government has the capacity, programs and resources to ensure Minnesotans have access to the resources necessary to build resilient communities; however, these state resources are often unknown or misunderstood by their intended audiences.

At our Rural Climate Dialogues in Stevens, Itasca, and Winona Counties, participants all identified similar areas of concern: Rising energy costs, challenges in adapting land management decisions (e.g. agriculture and forestry) to climate change and flooding impacts on infrastructure. These concerns are especially acute in rural areas. In 2017, the rural poverty rate was 16.4%, compared to 12.9% in urban areas. Rural households have lower incomes and older housing stock on average. And, rural communities are typically more closely tied to natural resource-based economies that will become less predictable in the face of climate change.

Despite and often due to these challenges, rural communities are at the forefront of creating the solutions necessary for a climate-friendly economy. The rural landscape is comprised of forests, farms and rangelands that can capture carbon when managed appropriately; land and resources for wind, solar and other renewable installations; and most importantly, people and ingenuity to implement the transition to a low-carbon economy. The unique role rural areas and people can play in climate mitigation, as well as the urgency they face in adapting to climate change, makes it especially critical for state resources to support rural communities in climate planning.

IATP’s new report can help local governments capitalize on opportunities to build community resilience. It can be difficult for rural residents to access financial and technical resources given the sheer number of available resources and a lack of program outreach and standardization. This report helps bridge the gap between state agencies and rural residents by collating critical resources that can help in climate adaptation and mitigation and building community resilience.

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