Hunters, anglers report warming winters bad for wildlife

03-28-2012 // Dean Kuipers - Los Angeles Times

This excerpt is from The Los Angeles Times

The exceptionally warm winter of 2011-12 might be a nice respite for everyone, but the rising average winter temperatures are not a good thing for North American wildlife. In a new report released this week by the National Wildlife Federation, fishermen, hunters and other sportspersons discuss how warmer winters are changing the behavior of wildlife and even threatening the survival of certain species.  

The report, “On Thin Ice: Warmer Winters Put America’s Hunting and Fishing Heritage at Risk (pdf),” showcases the effects of climate change on several key species, including trout, waterfowl and moose, as observed by people who are presented as “America’s first conservationists”: anglers and hunters.

The relationship between that community and environmentalists has been testy over the years, but the real effects of climate change are one place they find common ground. And, apparently, a lot of it.

“We work with a lot of sportsmen and -women across the nation, and we constantly hear back from them that they’re seeing the effects of climate change on the ground,” says Joe Mendelson, policy director for the Climate and Energy program at the National Wildlife Federation. “The changes might seem subtle to to some, but they see them in their outdoor pursuits maybe more readily than others.”

Fishermen came out in large numbers last year to lobby Congress and the Environmental Protection Agencyto regulate mercury emissions from power plants, as coal-fired plants disgorge a form of the poison that settles in rivers and affects fish eaten out of those rivers. The solution to global climate change is certainly more daunting, but those quoted in the report are making the connection to regulating the emissions of CO2 and other global warming gases from multiple sources.

Since the 1970s, says the report, average winter temps have gone up 1-2 degrees Fahrenheit in the Pacific Northwest and as much as 4 degrees in the Northeast. The season is as much as two weeks shorter than it used to be, and there’s less snow on average.

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