Adapt Your Activities

What can you do?

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Protect your home from the risk of forest fire

As Montana's climate gets warmer and drier, the risk of fires in and around peoples' homes near forests goes up. Economists estimate that costs for fighting fires will increase tremendously over the next several decades, which is something we'd all like to avoid.

Some forest communities, like Seeley Lake, have created "community fire protection zones" where management goals for forests include reducing fire risk and ensuring that there are escape routes if a big fire does come through.

If you're a property owner close to a forest, there's a lot you can do on your own to protect your home and reduce your risk:

  • use fire-resistant building materials, and replace wood shake roofs with metal
  • create a brush-free zone or defensible space of 10-30 feet all the way around your house
  • landscape with fire-resistant plants and shrubs
  • remove shrubs beneath trees, and prune trees up to a height of 8-10 feet above the ground
  • stack firewood away from your home and upslope.

Figure: Kentucky Firewise Program.

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Reduce pressure on your local water supply while creating a beautiful garden

Creating a drought-tolerant landscape of native plants around your home can help you and your community by:

  • decreasing the amount of water needed for irrigation
  • making more water available for other household and community uses, as well as native fisheries
  • taking up less of your time for maintenance, which makes gardening simpler and less stressful
  • requiring little or no lawnmowing
  • retaining much more of the rain that falls with the right plants, planting design, soil grading, and mulching

And finally, if and when water restrictions are announced (either because of regulation or rising water costs), your native plants will be more likely to survive and thrive, while other plants may be unable to adapt.

Check out the links at right to learn more about how to make your garden and landscaping more resilient to the effects of a reduced water supply.  Besides, what's not to love about easier gardening and less lawnmowing?

Photo: iStock.

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Eat closer to home

As Montanans, many of us are lucky to have a vibrant agricultural economy close to our communities. Not only is supporting community-based agriculture good for local producers, but it's healthier for you and better for the environment. It also helps preserve the Montana we love by keeping land in agricultural production instead of converting it to condos or second homes.

Why truck carrots from California -- and burn all that gas getting them here -- when your neighbors grow them down the road? Check out your local farmer's market or locate a "community-supported agriculture" resource in the links to the right to find out how you can become a "locavore."

Eating closer to home seems to be catching on everywhere: "locavore" was actually the word of the year in the Oxford American Dictionary in 2007! (who knew?!)

Photo: iStock.

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Become more energy efficient -- and save money in the process!

Reducing how much energy we use is another way to slow the effects of climate change, and it's good for the pocketbook, too. Whether you live in an apartment in downtown Missoula or an old farmhouse up on the Hi Line, there's a lot you can do to save energy:

  • weatherproof doors and windows to keep heat indoors in the winter
  • replace old lightbulbs with fluorescents, with the help of coupons from the power company
  • unroll a few rolls of insulation to add an insulation blanket to your attic or storage space -- most heat loss from homes goes right out the roof!
  • turn off the lights when you leave a room
  • have the power company in to do a free energy audit of your home to find out where you might be losing the most energy

And, if you're like me, try not to stand in front of the refrigerator too long deciding what to make for dinner! Your power bill, and the planet, will thank you.

Check out Northwestern Energy's Residential E+ programs for more information.

Photo: iStock.

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Send us your ideas and we'll feature them in this space!

There are so many ways to adapt your own activities - and save water, energy, and money in the process - that we're just getting started here.

So please, send us your best ideas for all of the above and we'll feature them in this slide show!

Photo: iStock.