With clean energy expected to be one of four themes of President Obama’s State of the Union address this evening, the Obama Administration has launched its National Fish, Wildlife and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy, “an unprecedented collaborative effort” that marshals the resources of federal, state and tribal governments, as well as a diverse host of other organizations, to reduce the “negative impacts of climate change on fish, wildlife, plants, and the natural systems upon which they depend.”
The initiative is the clearest, most coherent attempt to date on the part of the federal government to streamline and better organize government bureaucracy as it relates to wildlife and natural ecosystems. And it does so in order to address the critical issue and challenge posed by climate change, fundamental problems and challenges that encompass and cut across traditional departmental and agency boundaries.
Set in motion and coordinated by the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and its Office of the Federal Environmental Executive, the initiative is led by co-chairs the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the New York Division of Fish, Wildlife, & Marine Resources and the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.
“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. Changes are expected to significantly increase over time, challenging our ability to manage and sustain these resources and the essential services they provide Americans every day,” according to the national strategy’s fact sheet.
“By taking steps now to help safeguard the nation’s natural resources against the impacts of climate change, we will be better able to limit future damages and their associated costs, and more effectively take advantage of beneficial opportunities.”
The National Fish, Wildlife, and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy’s seven primary goals are to:
- Conserve habitat to support healthy fish, wildlife and plant populations and ecosystem functions in a changing climate
- Manage species and habitats to protect ecosystem functions and provide sustainable cultural, subsistence, recreational, and commercial use in a changing climate.
- Enhance capacity for effective management in a changing climate.
- Support adaptive management in a changing climate through integrated observation and monitoring and improved decision support tools.
- Increase knowledge and information on impacts and responses of fish, wildlife and plants to a changing climate.
- Increase awareness and motivate action to safeguard fish, wildlife and plants in a changing climate.
- Reduce non-climate stressors to help fish, wildlife, plants, and ecosystems adapt to a changing climate.
The national climate change adaptation strategy’s roots go back to 2009, when Congress urged the CEQ and the Dept. of Interior “to develop a national, government-wide climate adaptation strategy to assist fish, wildlife, plants, and related ecological processes in becoming more resilient, adapting to, and surviving the impacts of climate change.”
Having progressed through outreach and engagement sessions and steering and technical committees, an agency review draft was produced in November, 2011. The public review draft is now available and open to public commentary until March 5.
Ecosystem Background Papers are to be published on Jan. 30, while an online public webinar will be held on Jan. 26. Public workshops will be held around the country before the final strategy is produced and published, which is expected in May or June.
Photo courtesy American Wildlife Service National Digital Library