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Public Review Draft of the National Fish, Wildlife and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy

January 24th, 2012 · No Comments

Until 5 March 2012, the National Fish, Wildlife, and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy is open for public comment.

This is a long document. The executive summary. is after the fold.

 Executive Summary

The climate is changing, and the effects are being seen in the nation’s valuable natural resources and in the economies and communities that depend on plants, animals, and ecosystems. Measurements unequivocally show that average temperatures in the United States have risen two degrees Fahrenheit (°F) over the last 50 years. The science strongly supports the finding that the underlying cause of these changes is the accumulation of heat-trapping carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases (GHG) in the atmosphere. If GHG emissions continue, the planet’s temperature is predicted to rise by  an additional 2.0 to 11.5 °F by the end of the century, with accompanying increases in extreme weather events and sea levels.
“Climatte is changing … Measurements unequivocally show … science strongly supports … “
Direct and truthful statements. 

Faced with a future climate that will be unlike that of the recent past, the nation has no choice but to adapt to the changes. In 2009, Congress recognized the need for


a national government-wide climate adaptation strategy for fish, wildlife, plants, and ecosystems, asking the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and the Department of the Interior (DOI) to develop such a strategy. CEQ and DOI responded by assembling an unprecedented partnership of federal, state, and tribal fish and wildlife conservation agencies to draft the Strategy. More than 100 diverse technical and scientific experts from across the country participated in drafting the Strategy for the partnership.


Wow. Can you imagine such principles.  “Collaborating across all levels of governments” while “working with … private landowners”.  Cooperation and collaboration to help deal with our civilization’s most serious challenge.  








Acidification represents one of the most terrifying change-the-game elements of what humanity is doing to the ecosystems we rely on.  Left out of this paragraph are many items and fears as to what “major impacts” might actually mean …



These seem like a rather sensible and meaningful goal breakout.


This Strategy envisions innovative opportunities for creating additional habitat. Paying farmers in the Great Plains to take some of their land out of production and then restoring prairie grass and sagebrush on the land could offset the projected population declines from climate change of the threatened lesser prairie chicken, according to one analysis. Similarly, adjusting rice farming practices in Louisiana could provide valuable new resources for a variety of waterfowl and shorebirds whose habitat is now disappearing because of wetland loss and sea level rise.

Many proposed actions describe types of conservation activities that management agencies have traditionally undertaken, but that will continue to be useful in a period of climate change but that will continue to be useful in a period of climate change. Others are designed to respond to the new challenges posed by climate change.






It’s also possible to use applied management to make habitats and species more resistant to climate change so they continue to provide sustainable cultural, subsistence, recreational, and commercial use. Stream and habitat restorations that narrow and deepen streams or that ensure a steady supply of cold groundwater can keep water temperatures low enough to maintain healthy trout populations even when air temperatures rise.



Can our society, with a Surpreme Court dominated by ‘property rights’ rightists and so on, be resilient enough to become resilient to climate chaos while sustaining our Democracy and core values?

Predicting how individual species and ecosystems will react to climate change will frequently be difficult.








While we know much, we know that we do not know enough. We must develop the systems for collecting more data, synthesizing that data into information, and transformating information into knowledge for decision-makers (at all levels of society). And, while figuring out how to do this more effectively and efficiently through, in part, breaking down barriers to information sharing.




In other words, in places like the State of the Union address, political and other leaders must do their part to inform and educate the body politic about the necessity, costs, and benefits of action.



Interesting how many ‘traditional’ paths are laid out as core to a future strategy.  Should we be attacking ‘invasive’ species or, perhaps, trying to figure out which ‘invasive’ species enable a functioning eco-system amid climate chaos?  Honestly, I don’t know the answer even as I believe the question has merit.



In other words, an integrated strategy across all sectors rather than stove-piped “solutions” irregardless of the impacts on other arenas.



Developing the planning, research, and management infrastructures over time to foster ever more effective responsiveness as the climate change challenges mount …

Admittedly, the task ahead is a daunting one. However, we can begin to take effective action to reduce risks and increase resiliency of valuable natural resources. This  Strategy  is a call to action. Unless the nation begins a serious effort to undertake this task now, we risk losing priceless living systems and the benefits and services they provide as the climate changes.

We will, to be clear, be “losing priceless living systems” in the coming decades. We can, however, reduce those losses through adaptation and mitigation efforts.

It is a daunting task …

It is well past time we started tackling it seriously …


Strategy  is also designed to build upon and complement many existing adaptation and conservation efforts (Chapter 4). Notable among those are the U.S. Global Change Research Program and the National Climate Assessment it produces every four years; the Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force that coordinates U.S. federal agency adaptation efforts; State Wildlife Action Plans; and Landscape Conservation Cooperatives. Implementing the  Strategy will require coordination and collaboration among these and many other entities. The  Strategy  proposes creation of a coordination body to oversee itsimplementation and engage with conservation partners.


In addition, the 

Strategy  emphasizes that actions to help plants, wildlife, fish, and natural systems adapt to climate change can be coordinated with measures taken in other sectors, such as agriculture and industry, to increase the benefits for all sectors. Reducing stormwater runoff not only reduces risks of flooding in cities, for example, it also reduces the threat that toxic algal blooms will affect aquatic ecosystems.


Reducing existing stresses on fish, wildlife, and plants can be some of the most effective, and doable, ways to increase resilience to climate change. Reducing and mitigating the ongoing habitat degradation

associated with human development such as pollution and loss of open space is critical and requires collaboration with land use planners. Taking steps to reduce stresses not related to climate, such as fighting invasive species like water hyacinth, can help natural systems cope with the additional pressures imposed by a changing climate.


Adaptation efforts will be most successful if they have broad public and political support and if key groups and people are motivated to take action themselves. Efforts to increase awareness and motivate action should be targeted toward elected officials, public and private policy makers, groups that are interested in learning more about climate change, private landowners, and natural resource user groups.





Engaging these stakeholders early and repeatedly to increase awareness of climate change, to develop integrated adaptation responses, and to motivate their participation and action is key to making this Strategy  work.


Can we say ‘understatement’?

Adapting to uncertain impacts requires coordinated observation and monitoring, information management and decision support systems, and a commitment

to adaptive management approaches. The National Ecological Observatory Network is one example of a coordinated observation system. Coordinated information management systems that link and make available data currently developed by separate agencies or groups will increase access to and use of this information by resource managers, planners, and decision makers. Vulnerability assessments can help managers develop and prioritize  adaptation efforts and inform management approaches.

New research is needed to increase knowledge about the specific impacts of climate change on fish, wildlife, plants, and habitats and their adaptive capacity to respond. The use of models has already produced useful information for planning for climate change impacts. More refined models at temporal and spatial scales appropriate to adaptation are required. Methods to objectively quantify the value of

ecosystem services provided by well-functioning ecosystems are needed.


Habitat protection does seem core to strategy but how to protect habitat in a changing and highly disrupted climate chaos world is an incredibly hard challenge to confront.

Climate change adaptation requires new ways of assessing information, new management tools and professional skills, increased collaboration across jurisdictions, and review of laws, regulations, and policies. Climate change impacts are occurring at scales much larger than the operational scope of individual organizations and agencies, and successful adaptation to climate change demands a strong

collaboration among all jurisdictions. Landscape Conservation Cooperatives, Migratory Bird Joint Ventures, National Fish Habitat Partnerships, and other existing and emerging partnerships are useful vehicles to promote collaboration.


The most robust approach for helping fish, wildlife, and plants adapt to climate change is conserving enough suitable habitat to sustain diverse and healthy populations. Many wildlife refuges and habitats could lose some of their original values, as the plants and animals they safeguard are forced to more hospitable climes. As a result, there’s a growing need to identify the best candidates for new conservation  areas, and to provide corridors of habitat that allow species to migrate.


Strategy  describes steps that can be taken to  combat these impacts and conserve ecosystems and make them more resilient (Chapter 3). Proposed strategies and actions along with checklists to monitor progress are organized under seven major goals in the Strategy: (1) conserving and connecting habitat; (2) managing species and habitats; (3) enhancing management capacity; (4) supporting adaptive management; (5) increasing knowledge; (6) Increasing awareness and motivating action; and (7) reducing stresses not caused by climate change.


Honestly, how many Americans have a clue?

Alaskan temperatures perhaps up an average of 26 degrees F?  The Iditarod will become a dirt bike race in the Alaska of Sarah Palin’s grandchildren …

Since water absorbs CO

from the air, the rising levels of the gas in the atmosphere have caused the oceans to become 30 percent more acidic since 1750. That’s already affecting the reproduction of species like oysters. As the pH of seawater continues to drop, major impacts on aquatic ecosystems and species are expected.



Strategy is guided by nine principles. Those principles include collaborating across all levels of government, working with non-government entities such as private landowners and other sectors like agriculture and energy, and engaging the public. It’s also important to use the best-available science and to identify where science and management capabilities must be improved or enhanced. When adaptation steps are taken, it’s crucial to carefully monitor actual outcomes in order to adjust future actions to make them more effective, an iterative process called adaptive management. And given the size and urgency of  the challenge, we must begin acting now.


With appropriate political direction, the professionals — those faceless ‘bureaucrats’ who wake up every morning and dedicate themselves to helping foster a stronger society — went to work together to figure out a path forward for fostering “adaptation” to reduce (minimize, even) the have that climate change will impose on American ecosystems and wildlife.


The result is The National Fish, Wildlife and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy (hereafter

Strategy). The Strategy is the first joint effort of three levels of government (federal, state, and tribal) that have primary authority and responsibility for the living resources of the United States to identify what must be done to help these resources become more resilient, adapt to, and survive a warming climate. It is designed to inspire and enable natural resource managers, legislators, and other decision makers to take effective steps towards climate change adaptation over the next five to ten years.


Faced with a future climate that will be unlike that of the recent past, the nation has no choice but to adapt to the changes.

In other words, no matter what we do, we have already baked in ‘catastrophe’ that we should have acted to avoid. And, while we can reduce future catastrophe, we need to ‘invest’ to adapt to the changes that are occurring and will occur.


In 2009, Congress recognized the need for a

 national government-wide climate adaptation strategy for fish, wildlife, plants, and ecosystems, asking the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and the Department of the Interior (DOI) to develop such a strategy. CEQ and DOI responded by assembling an unprecedented partnership of federal, state, and tribal fish and wildlife conservation agencies to draft the Strategy . More than 100 diverse technical and scientific experts from across the country participated in drafting the Strategy for the partnership.


And, “best-available science” recognizes that sciences is ever-changing, ever developing, and (writ large) ever improving.  We will, without question, know more and have greater fidelity in most scientific arenas tomorrow than today, and more the day after tomorrow.  We cannot wait, however, for “better” science to make decisions about action even as we should use developing knowledge to adapt and refine the decisions we make based on today’s knowledge base.

The Strategy details how climate change is expected to affect the eight major ecosystem types in the United States (Chapter 2). Warmer temperatures and changing precipitation patterns are expected to cause more fires and more pest outbreaks like the mountain pine beetle epidemic in forests, for instance, while boreal forest will move north into what is now tundra. Grasslands and shrublands are likely to be invaded by non-native species and suffer wetland losses from drier conditions, which would decrease nesting habitat for waterfowl. Deserts are expected to get hotter and drier, accelerating existing declines in species like the Saguaro cactus.

Climate change is expected to be especially dramatic in the Arctic, with temperatures in northern Alaska projected to climb 13 to 26 °F. That would change tundra into shrublands, and bring more fires. In

addition, the thawing of frozen organic material in soils would release huge amounts of greenhouse gases, contributing to climate change. Rivers, streams, and lakes face higher temperatures that harm coldwater species like salmon and trout populations, while sea level rise threatens coastal marshes and beaches, which are crucial habitats for many species. A mong those at risk: the diamondback terrapin and the piping plover.


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Tags: climate change