I’m here today to share how mitigation efforts that start before disasters strike can reduce burdens on federal disaster programs and make communities safer and more prosperous. All of these strategies will yield large savings from avoided losses. These strategies will alleviate pressure on post-disaster programs like NFIP and allow projects to move forward – projects that will reduce risk, protect homes and businesses, and make communities safer and more attractive places to live.
Kristin Smith, a lead for Headwaters Economics’ FloodWise Community Assistance Program, presented a project to the Glendive City Council recently outlining the collection of data and a research team from MSU plans to work in Glendive soon.
Kimiko Barrett, research and policy analyst at Headwaters Economics joins a panel on NPR’s 1A program to discuss how climate hazards are impacting home insurance rates, and what can be done about it.
The growing demand shows that federal funding is not keeping pace with state and local efforts to fortify communities against flooding, wildfires and other events that have been intensified by climate change, said Kristin Smith, a researcher at Headwaters Economics, a nonprofit research organization in Montana.
Nearly half of the population in the American West lives in the wildland-urban interface in some form, according to a study by Bozeman-based Headwaters Economics, and it’s the fastest growing land-use type in the country.
“I think the fundamental challenge with all of this, as with most natural hazards, is it’s very hard for us to plan ahead for things,” said Dr. Kimiko Barrett of Headwaters Economics, a Montana-based nonprofit research group that works to improve community development and land management decisions across the country. “We are by nature reactive and responsive, in contrast to being anticipatory. Even after a wildfire occurs, we have a small window to actually mobilize and enact the transformative change needed before amnesia kicks in, or bias kicks in, where you feel that [because the fire] happened, it will never happen again.”
The estimated economic benefit to Montana from the finished project is $60 million in visitor’s spending and $800,000 in new tax revenue. The economic impact numbers provided by Belle during the presentation were from an analysis performed by Bozeman-based company Headwaters Economics.
“I think the headwaters economics study on the Great American Rail-Trail is just over $13 million a year in economic impact in Wyoming, and so I think there’s some of these local tourism, chamber of commerce oriented folks who are looking at this and see the impact it might have in their own local community.”
Cooley said a study of potential statewide impacts conducted by the Bozeman-based firm Headwaters Economics showed that the alternative transportation route would bring $229 million in visitor spending, 2,500 new jobs, and $22.8 million in new tax revenue.
“We know that communities really struggle when a disaster hits, and we also know that these disasters are getting more frequent and more extreme,” said Kristin Smith, the head researcher on the Headwaters Economics study. “One of my big questions is how are we ensuring that rural and disadvantaged communities have the money, the staffing, the capacity, just the resources that they need for the future?”
The Governor’s Housing Task Force was charged with an enormous job: identify solutions to build more homes and ease Montana’s housing crisis.
Every Montanan deserves affordable, attainable housing. Legislation that considers the task force’s report can help us get there.
But if we want new housing to be safe, healthy and durable, we must also ask how can we build new housing today that is ready for the floods, wildfires and heat waves of tomorrow?
“About 60% of the funding is going to require a local match,” says Kristin Smith, applied researcher at Headwaters Economics. “Local matches are really features of federal funding, they have been for decades. But as we’re thinking about how to help communities get the resources that they need, the local match can actually be a barrier to accessing that funding.”
The analysis — by Headwaters Economics, an independent research group that focuses on community development and land management — warns that local match requirements are putting rural communities in particular at a disadvantage. Many lack the resources to both apply for grant projects and also to sustain their portion of funding through the lifetime of a project.
“Given the scale of how much needs to be done, we are just skimming the surface,” said Headwaters Economics researcher Kimiko Barrett. “Risks are increasing at a scale and magnitude that we haven’t seen historically. You’re seeing entire neighborhoods devastated.”
While the report highlights a number of growth factors, [Megan Lawson, an economist with the nonprofit research group] said it leaves out data on income and housing inequalities. She pointed to No. 2-ranking Jackson, Wyo., and Teton County, which boasts the highest per capita average income in the country, putting housing out of reach for teachers and police officers.
In her research with the non-profit Headwaters Economics, [Dr. Kristin] Smith found that more than one in five mobile homes in Montana are situated in high flood risk neighborhoods – something that the state has been waking up to.
That came as a surprise to economist Megan Lawson with Headwaters Economics in Bozeman, who examined the five-year data.
“Rents increased over that time period across the state, but incomes increased more,” Lawson said.
“For many, many years and decades, really those other costs that come to the surface following a wildfire event have been overlooked,” said Kimiko Barrett, a wildfire researcher and policy lead at Headwaters Economics in Montana.