Capture (5)Hubs…hubs…hubs. All the hubbub about USDA regional hubs. You may have heard about the launch of the regional climate change hubs across the country, but may not know about it’s goals, activities, and how it fits in with other regional networks. Fear not as Randy Johnson, National Leader USDA Climate Change Hubs, just released a great essay on the regional hubs for risk adaptation and mitigation to climate change.

In June 2013, USDA announced the launch of seven “Regional Hubs for Risk Adaptation and Mitigation to Climate Change” and in February 2014, Secretary Vilsack announced the selection of the 7 Climate Hub locations and 3 Sub-Hubs.

The mission of the Climate Hubs is to develop science-based, region specific information and technologies to agricultural and natural resource managers that enable climate smart decision making and to provide assistance to enable land managers to implement those decisions. The main point of the effort is to get information, tools, and program assistance to working-land managers; it centers more on technology transfer than research. All three Forest Service (FS) deputy areas have a part in the mission of the Climate Hubs. The mission closely matches the State & Private Forestry mission, the National Forest System (NFS) will be a major benefactor and is also often the first point of contact with the public, and the information and tools from Research & Development (R&D) will have a greater impact as we work with the Climate Hubs. Key partners in the networks include the public and land grant universities, the state Cooperative Extension Services, USDA researchers, the private sector, state, local and regional governments, NOAA, DOI regional climate change experts, and non-profits engaged in providing assistance to landowners. The FS leads three hubs (Pacific Northwest, Northeast and Southeast) and the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) leads the Midwest, Northern Plains, Southern Plains and the Southwest. Of the three Sub-Hubs, FS R&D leads the Caribbean and Northern Forest, and is a key partner in the third the California Sub-Hub. USDA science and technical support will come primarily from ARS, FS and the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS); additional program delivery specialist on topics of relevance to the region will come from Animal and Plant Health Service (APHIS), Farm Service Agency (FSA), Rural Development (RD), Risk Management Agency (RMA) and other USDA agencies.

The Climate Hubs function as a catalyst to existing USDA programs by packaging science results (especially USDA research) so that our stakeholders receive more timely and useful information, tools and programs to support their management in light of the increased threats and pressures resulting from a changing climate. In addition to this “packaging” and translation, the Climate Hubs work with existing extension and outreach organizations (Cooperative Extension System, USDA Service Centers, FS Threat Centers, and others) to improve coordination and access to technical and program information. The Climate Hubs also function as an information feedback channel to inform those doing the science and translation what tools are working and what agricultural and forestry issues need more research.

hubWhile much of the USDA’s research and extension efforts are associated with the mission of the Climate Hubs, the Hubs themselves consist of a staff in each region or sub-region with the capability to:

  • Translate existing science into appropriate tools and products;
  • Work with extension organizations to obtain feedback on Climate Hub products and determine what new products may be needed;
  • Engage existing extension and outreach efforts, by region, to more efficiently utilize existing material and resources;
  • Coordinate USDA research and outreach efforts in climate change with those of other federal and non-federal providers;
  • Provide feedback to science organizations to enable them to focus research on priority issues;
  • Maintain a web presence that will meet the data and tool needs of the agricultural and forestry sectors;
  • Work with appropriate groups to establish communities of practice for exchange of ideas among stakeholders.

Provide training opportunities for USDA personnel, outreach providers and stakeholders. Climate effects are not experienced in isolated; issues and stakeholders overlap and no one agency or sector can solve its challenges alone. The NOAA Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessment Programs (RISAs) and Regional Climate Centers, the DOI Climate Science Centers (CSCs) and Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCCs) complement the hubs by providing data, findings, tools and forecasts for USDA agencies and the hubs to build into integrated services for the agricultural and forestry sectors. The different regional networks provide a different mix of skills and expertise to better serve their stakeholder needs, and when coordinated together, provides a more complete government platform to assist the Nation in dealing with the impacts of climate change.

To learn more about USDA’s Climate Hubs, >>click here.

This article was originally featured in The April 2014 update on Forest Service climate change activities at: http://www.fs.fed.us/climatechange/updates/April%202014%20Climate%20Update.pdf

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