Communicating Climate Risk in Rural Regions

Picture of Jill Sanford

Jill Sanford

Communications Manager

On February 17, Deputy Secretary Jessica Morse joined Sierra Business Council’s President Steve Frisch in a fireside chat moderated by our partners at Community Adaptation Learning Exchange (CALE).

Sierra Business Council’s Sierra CAMP co-hosted this session in partnership with CALE to explore the common challenges around communicating climate risk in rural areas that stem from rural economic interests and hurdles, the relative isolation of unique communities, financial capacity, sociopolitical resistance to change, and other barriers.

This conversation explored catalysts that drive climate adaptation successes in rural California, including legislative incentives, the economic and cost-saving benefits of proactive climate action, and the urgency of unprecedented climate crises such as wildfires.


“Every day I see the climate impact on rural California and what we’re seeing is that rural communities are on the front lines of climate change. It is impacting their daily lives, their economies, their mental health, and their safety profoundly.” — Jessica Morse
“It’s important for rural communities to understand that investing in solutions is cheaper and better for their economies than doing nothing. That there’s a cost to doing nothing.”— Jessica Morse
“A wildfire is not going to ask if you’re a Democrat or Republican so neither do we and it’s so critical that this is never presented as a partisan issue.” — Jessica Morse

“We want to make sure that our communities are safe and that they are thriving because it’s not good enough just to say we’re going to survive climate change. We need to adjust our resilience structures in a way that our communities can thrive even in the face of these more extreme conditions.” — Jessica Morse
“I think one of the really interesting things about rural stakeholders is when you think about what makes them different and requires a somewhat different approach is number one, they’re often very tied to their community and have a strong sense of identity tied to that community. Number two, most of their institutions and infrastructure is small and under-resourced the businesses are small for example the sierra 90 of the private sector employees work in businesses with 10 employees or less.” —Steve Frisch
California’s natural resource managers not at the state level, but from the private sector, are stepping forward to be advocates of climate adaptation and mitigation strategies. It surprises me every day when i see a new farmer a new rancher a new logger in some cases industrial timber companies in many cases people who made their businesses on essentially resource extraction stepping forward and saying we have to do something fundamentally different. Now i think part of that was driven by the scale and intensity of wildfire, part of that is driven by stakeholder engagement and pressure on those industries to change, but a lot of it is driven by the point that they’re rural community residents too and they see the change every day and it is changing people’s minds.” — Steve Frisch
‘Rural regions can be a huge part of a achieving our carbon neutrality goals and build rural economic prosperity and equity at the same time’ — Steve Frisch

‘Tribal stakeholders are crucial, especially in the inner mountain West, they bring cultural knowledge of land management to the table.’ — Steve Frisch

‘[Climate advocacy is…] way more powerful when it’s delivered by people who live in the community’ — Steve Frisch

‘The healing aspect of engaging rural communities in a climate discussion is to create opportunities for their residents to participate, be in charge of their own destiny and have a stake in it.” — Steve Frisch

Watch the Recording Here:


Jessica Morse is the Deputy Secretary for Forest and Wildland Resilience of the California Natural Resources Agency. In this role, she is working to increase the pace and scale of science-based forest management to restore healthy forests, improve watershed health, protect California’s unique ecosystems, and make Californians wildfire resilient. Before joining Governor Newsom’s administration, Jessica spent nearly ten years in National Security working for the Defense Department, State Department, and the U.S. Agency for International Development. Her assignments included a year and a half in Iraq and tours in India, Myanmar, and US Pacific Command. In 2018, Morse ran for U.S. Congress in California’s 4th Congressional District in the Sierra Nevada region. Jessica is a fifth generation Northern Californian. She and her family still own and manage their original homestead forestland in the Sierra foothills. An avid backpacker, Jessica has hiked over 500 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail.

Steve Frisch is President of Sierra Business Council, a 501(c)3 nonprofit that serves the environmental, economic, and community interests of the Sierra Nevada region through proactive work in economic empowerment, climate action, and regional advocacy. Sierra Business Council programs include Sierra Climate Adaptation & Mitigation Partnership (CAMP), Sierra Nevada Energy Watch, and the Sierra Small Business Development Center, which advances sustainable business practices and links new and expanding businesses to funding opportunities. Sierra Business Council’s goal is a diverse, inventive, and sustainable region where the economy is vibrant, the land is thriving, and the communities offer opportunity for all. As President, Steve manages Sierra Business Council’s triple-bottom line strategy, regional advocacy efforts, and programmatic development.

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