A colleague recently joked that NIACS is the Kevin Bacon of climate adaptation. It took me a second (Kevin Bacon?), but she went on to describe how in her experience there are seldom more than a few degrees of separation between any discussion or activity in natural resources adaptation and some connection with NIACS. It was a wonderful compliment from a national leader, even if I was slow on the uptake. It also gave me pause to reflect on the purpose of NIACS and the changing nature of our influence. Simply stated,
We’ve evolved over time in the scale and scope of “informing” and “facilitating.” In recent years we have intentionally expanded beyond our early focus on forest management to include greater consideration of resource areas such as water, recreation, wildlife, agriculture, wetlands, coastal ecosystems, and infrastructure. We’ve also redoubled our efforts in carbon management and delved much deeper into helping to create and support tools better suited to tribal ways of knowing. Finally, we’ve begun to direct more strategic attention beyond our original footprint of the Midwest and Northeast. These shifts in focus are in direct response to feedback from our NIACS charter organizations, as well as the many agencies, organizations, and communities that we serve. There are acknowledged risks to expanding our scope too much, even as the general demand and specific requests for such expansion grow yearly. In fact, it’s a recurring theme in this annual letter. It can be difficult to balance a sense of ethical imperative to do everything we can with a realistic understanding that we can’t do everything. We have tried to achieve this balance in recent years by working deliberately and intensively with partners who have led the way in expanding and adapting our approaches to their needs and networks. You can see this coming to fruition in the pages of this year’s report. That said, our scope has continued to increase even this year and we’re still learning what it means to inform and facilitate – to live up to our purpose – in these new places, resource areas, and communities. The idea that NIACS is commonly separated by only a few degrees from adaptation discussions and activities is a gratifying reflection of our influence, but it’s absolutely necessary to me that our direct interactions remain positive, productive, and effective. That core working model will be my essential yardstick as we continue to experiment with the scope of our activities and search for the elusive notion of balance.
With kind regards,
Chris Swanston, NIACS Director