Building climate readiness on Minnesota's North Shore

Project Overview

Coastal recreation and tourism along the North Shore of Lake Superior is a driving force of the region’s economy. Compared to Minnesota as a whole, the North Shore’s Lake and Cook counties rely more heavily on tourism for employment and tax revenues. Tourists engage in a variety of seasonally dependent recreational activities, including hiking, boating, scenic driving, fishing, skiing, and snowmobiling. The North Shore is a gateway to the Superior National Forest, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Grand Portage National Monument and several state parks and forests. Coastal recreation, cultural and natural resources are particularly vulnerable to climate-related impacts. Thus, nature-based tourism and outdoor recreation providers in coastal regions need to be aware of how increasingly variable environmental conditions are likely to impact the perceptions and behaviors of recreationists and tourists.

The North Shore Community Climate Readiness project is a multi-methods research and outreach project focused on exploring how projected hydroclimatic conditions will affect the behaviors of recreationists and tourists and impact local economies. The project combines hydroclimatic modeling with a diverse array of social science methodologies to estimate shifts in the demand for recreation and tourism under alternative future emissions scenarios. Researchers from across the geophysical, economic, social and spatial sciences are currently engaged in the research and outreach project. The project team consists of members from The University of Minnesota, North Carolina State University and Carleton College; the Minnesota Sea Grant program funds the project.

The overarching goals of the project are:

  • 1) to assess the capacity of local communities to adapt to
    changing climatic conditions using stakeholder interviews,
    workshops, and a content analysis of local management plans.

  • 2) to determine the risks to nature-based recreation resources
    and tourism destinations using hydroclimatic modeling, past
    visitation data and on-site visitor surveys.

  • Together, the findings from the adaptive capacity and destination risk assessments will allow researchers to work with local communities to
  • 3) identify scientifically-grounded planning and management
    recommendations to be used by local community planners,
    natural resource managers and elected officials.

Components of the Project

Local Perceptions of Climate Change on the North Shore

We've collected and analyzed a series of "community climate narratives" to understand how residents and resource managers feel about climate change and its impacts to the North Shore.

Visitor Expenditures on the North Shore

Using data collected from on-site surveys delivered to visitors across the North Shore, we have estimated the economic contribution of outdoor recreation and tourism to the region's economy.

Hydroclimatic Conditions on the North Shore

Outdoor recreation on the North Shore is dependent on hydrologic and climatic conditions. Using advanced hydroclimatic modeling, we've developed a region-specific set of hydroclimatic conditions.

Meanings Visitors Attach to the North Shore

The North Shore region means a lot to both local community members and tourists. Using data collected from Instagram, we're determining what the most personally meaningful activities and resources are.

Assessment of Current North Shore Policies

The North Shore has a variety of policies designed to ensure the provision of public goods and services. We've evaluated those policies to determine whether or not they can address climate-related impacts.

Current and Future Visitation to the North Shore

After conducting nearly 2,000 surveys with visitors, we've compiled critical information on both how the region's recources are being used now as well as how use will shift as the the region's climate changes.