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Ag, economy to be emphasized in Idaho climate conference

An upcoming conference about climate change will to be hosted at Boise State University, Idaho State University and University of Idaho.
John O’Connell

Capital Press

Published on October 16, 2017 11:49AM

Colden Baxter and Linda Engle, both of whom teach at Idaho State University, stand outside the ISU Pond Student Union Building, one of three locations statewide where a climate conference they’re helping to organize will be hosted.

Colden Baxter and Linda Engle, both of whom teach at Idaho State University, stand outside the ISU Pond Student Union Building, one of three locations statewide where a climate conference they’re helping to organize will be hosted.

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BOISE — Idaho’s agricultural and business leaders will offer their insight about climate change and how to cope with it during a conference scheduled for Nov. 16 and 17 at the state’s three public universities.

Safeguarding Idaho’s Economy in a Changing Climate — Our Water, Our Land, Our Health, Our Future will feature speakers at Boise State University, whose presentations will be streamed live at the University of Idaho in Moscow and Idaho State University in Pocatello. Break-out sessions for participants — including one on management of agriculture and rangeland in a changing climate — will be hosted during both afternoons at all three venues.

Several speakers come from agricultural backgrounds. Lynn Tominaga, executive director of Idaho Ground Water Appropriators Inc., will participate in a panel discussion on planning for changes in water availability and quality and the timing and type of precipitation.

Karen Launchbaugh, director of the UI Rangeland Center, will serve on a panel discussing the true cost of wildfire. Erik Gonring, of Simplot Plant Sciences, and Rich Berger, with Clif Bar, will serve on a panel devoted to innovative solutions by Idaho’s industrial leaders.

Scott Lowe, an economist and associate dean of BSU’s graduate college, has researched how Idaho farmers are shifting toward rotations with more drought-tolerant crops as the Western climate becomes more variable. Lowe, who has promoted the conference to BSU students, believes emphasizing thoughts and possible solutions offered by businessmen who “deal with climate change on a daily basis” is the “natural next step” in the dialogue.

“Often you hear from the academics and the scientists,” Lowe said. “Regardless of what they’re saying, I think it’s important to have a dialogue where the voices are from industry and businesses.”

The cost of attending the conference is $29, and anyone interested in attending may register online at www.idahoclimatesummit.com.

Organizers and sponsors include the Sierra Club, Monsanto, American Lung Association, Idaho Power, Hewlett-Packard, the state universities, DL Evans Bank, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, Idaho National Laboratory, Water Resources Research Institute, Upper Snake River Tribes, Nez Perce Tribe, Northwest Climate Science Center, Potlatch Corp. and Langdon Group. Organizers anticipate the conference will become an annual event.

Linda Engle, an ISU math instructor involved in organizing the Pocatello conference, said speakers and participants will focus on the problem during the first day, and offer their suggested solutions and coping strategies on the second day. Boise-based Warm Springs Consulting will produce a booklet documenting the discussions.

“The conversation hasn’t begun as to, ‘How do we adapt to this?’” Engle said. “I have children, and I want them to have a world in which crops still grow, and they can still enjoy the outdoors.”

ISU stream ecologist Colden Baxter, another Pocatello conference organizer, has studied how climate affects Idaho’s water resources. He’s found evidence that native species may be more resilient to climate change than previously thought, meaning officials should have a good opportunity to find good solutions.

“I grew up farming myself, and I know farmers are close to climate, and they have to be responding to it and adapting all the time,” Baxter said.



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