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Monday, April 1, 2013

National climate change adaptation strategy for fish, wildlife, plants released

Last Tuesday, the Obama administration released the National Fish, Wildlife and Plants Adaptation Strategy, which contains recommendations for “natural resource administrators, elected officials, and other decision makers” on actions to address the threats climate change poses to wildlife and natural resources.

The Strategy begins with this model of understatement:

Our climate is changing, and these changes are already impacting the nation’s valuable natural resources and the people, communities, and economies that depend on them. These impacts are expected to increase with continued changes in the planet’s climate system, putting many of the nation’s valuable natural resources at risk. Action is needed now to reduce these impacts (including reducing the drivers of climate change) and help sustain the natural resources and services the nation depends on.

It then goes on, as summarized by this ClimateProgress article, to discuss seven important goals that would help wildlife adapt to climate change:

  1. Conserve habitat to support healthy fish, wildlife, and plant populations and ecosystem functions, including identifying new areas to protect;
  2. Update or develop agency species, habitat, and land and water management plans, programs and practices to consider climate change; 
  3. Enhance capacity for effective management in a changing climate by natural resource managers;
  4. Support adaptive management through integrated observation and monitoring of the impacts of climate change on natural resources and use of decision support tools like risk assessments for priority species and habitats;
  5. Increase knowledge and information on impacts and responses of fish, wildlife, and plants to a changing climate; 
  6. Increase public awareness and motivate action to safeguard fish, wildlife, and plants in a changing climate; and 
  7. Reduce non-climate stressors like habitat degradation to help fish, wildlife, plants, and ecosystems adapt to a changing climate.

These goals are imperative for any natural resource manager worthy of the name, and have been characterized as an “urgent call to action” for government officials.  But as described in the strategy, they are "non-binding" recommendations. That word, alas, timidly speaks for itself.

There is no question that we have already locked in an alarming level of climate disruption It is irreversible, and poses a threat to wildlife – and to human life – that goes far beyond non-binding recommendations.

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