Wednesday, March 27, 2013

National strategy will help safeguard fish, wildlife and plants in a changing climate

In partnership with State and Tribal agencies, the Obama Administration yesterday released the first nationwide strategy to help public and private decision makers address the impacts that climate change is having on natural resources and the people and economies that depend on them.

Developed in response to a request by Congress, the National Fish, Wildlife, and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy is the product of extensive national dialogue that spanned nearly two years and was shaped by comments from more than 55,000 Americans.

Fish, wildlife, and plant resources provide important benefits and services to Americans every day, including jobs, income, food, clean water and air, building materials, storm protection, tourism and recreation. For example, hunting, fishing and other wildlife-related recreation contribute an estimated $120 billion to our nation’s economy every year, and marine ecosystems sustain a U.S. seafood industry that supports approximately 1 million jobs and $116 billion in economic activity annually.

The Climate Adaptation Strategy provides a roadmap of key steps needed over the next five years to reduce the current and expected impacts of climate change on our natural resources, which include: changing species distributions and migration patterns, the spread of wildlife diseases and invasive species, the inundation of coastal habitats with rising sea levels, changing productivity of our coastal oceans, and changes in freshwater availability.

The Climate Adaptation Strategy builds upon efforts already underway by federal, state, tribal governments and other organizations to safeguard fish, wildlife and plants and the communities that depend on them, and provides specific voluntary steps that agencies and partners can take in the coming years to reduce costly damages and protect the health of our communities and economy. The strategy does not prescribe any mandatory activities for government or nongovernmental entities, nor suggest any regulatory actions.

“Rising sea levels, warmer temperatures, loss of sea ice and changing precipitation patterns – trends scientists have connected to climate change – are already affecting the species that we care about, the services we value, and the places we call home,” said Deputy Secretary of the Interior David J. Hayes. “The Strategy is a comprehensive, multi-partner response that takes a 21st-century approach developed by the American public for sustaining fish, wildlife, and plant resources and the services they provide – now and into the future.”

“The health and vitality of our nation’s natural resources are important components of our overall social and economic welfare,” said Eric Schwaab, Assistant Administrator for Fisheries at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “As resource trustees, we have an obligation to understand, consider and minimize all the potential impacts, including those from climate change. This new strategy will help us meet those challenges and empower current and future generations to be better stewards of our priceless resources and cherished landscapes amidst a rapidly changing world.”

Implementation of the strategy will provide public and private decision makers with the information and tools they need to consider and respond to climate change as part of their ongoing activities. The Strategy identifies seven key steps to help safeguard the nation’s fish, wildlife and plants in a changing climate:

  • Conserve habitat to support healthy fish, wildlife, and plant populations and ecosystem functions;
  • Manage species and habitats to protect ecosystem functions and provide sustainable commercial, subsistence, recreational and cultural use;
  • Enhance capacity for effective management; 
  • Support adaptive management through integrated observation and monitoring and use of decision support tools; 
  • Increase knowledge and information on impacts and responses of fish, wildlife, and plants;
  • Increase awareness and motivate action to safeguard fish, wildlife, and plants; 
  • and Reduce non-climate stressors to help fish, wildlife, plants, and ecosystems adapt.

"State fish and wildlife agencies serve as stewards of the nation's natural resources and we welcome the release of the Strategy to assist us collectively in our efforts to conserve our fish and wildlife and the habitats on which they depend," said Patricia Riexinger, Director of the Division of Fish, Wildlife, and Marine Resources for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. "The real value of this strategy is that is makes a broad array of recommendations that agencies and our conservation partners can support as our capacity allows, and enables us to understand how each of us can contribute to progress on helping our natural resources adapt to a changing climate."

Development of the Fish & Wildlife Adaptation Strategy was guided by an innovative partnership of federal, state and tribal fish and wildlife conservation agencies in response to a 2010 call by the U.S. Congress for a national, government-wide climate adaptation strategy to assist fish, wildlife, and plants, and related ecological processes in becoming more resilient, adapting to, and surviving the impacts of climate change. More than 90 researchers and managers from federal, state and tribal natural resource management agencies across the country participated in drafting the strategy.

The draft Strategy received nearly 55,000 comments from 54,847 individuals, 51 non-governmental organizations, 17 governmental entities, and 5 tribes. Input and suggestions provided in the comments were carefully reviewed and incorporated into the final document.

The partnership was co-led by Interior’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (representing state fish and wildlife agencies). An intergovernmental steering committee that included representatives from 15 federal agencies, five state fish and wildlife agencies, and two inter-tribal commissions oversaw development of the strategy with support from the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.

The National Fish, Wildlife and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy can be found on the web at

Source: NOAA

Image courtesy of Ilse Reijs and Jan-Noud Hutten via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)