National Blueprint for Addressing Climate Change Impacts on Wildlife and Habitats

“Climate Change is Now the Most Serious Threat Facing Wildlife” Focus Must Turn to Putting Climate-Smart Conservation into Practice

03-26-2013 // Bruce Stein

National Wildlife Federation welcomes the release today of a long-awaited national strategy for tackling the impacts of climate change on the nation’s plants, animals, and ecosystems. Developed collaboratively by federal, state, and tribal governments the National Fish, Wildlife, and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy lays out a blueprint for safeguarding wildlife in the face of climate change and increases in extreme weather.

“Climate change is now the most serious threat facing wildlife,” said Larry Schweiger, president and CEO of National Wildlife Federation. “In addition to the urgent need to reduce the carbon pollution driving global warming, we must begin preparing for and addressing the climate impacts already hurting our wildlife heritage and local communities.”

“This national adaptation strategy is a call-to-action for conservationists and natural resource managers,” said John Kostyack, vice president for Wildlife Conservation.” It makes clear that we can no longer take a business-as-usual attitude if we want to pass along the nation’s rich conservation legacy to our children and grandchildren.”

The plan lays out a number of general strategies to help strengthen natural systems and sustain wildlife species, along with a series of specific actions to carry them out. “Issuing the strategy is an important step in safeguarding our natural heritage,” said Dr. Bruce Stein, director of Climate Adaptation, “but we must now shift our focus to getting these strategies put into practice by state and federal agencies, conservation organizations, and other private interests.”

As detailed in the recent National Wildlife Federation report Wildlife in a Warming World climate change-related impacts such as intensified drought, flooding, and mega wildfires already are harming long-standing wildlife conservation efforts. These climate-fueled impacts are also undermining the ability of natural systems to provide direct benefits like clean water to people and local communities. As a result, climate change adaptation efforts that prepare for and cope with these impacts are increasingly important to affecting natural resource management.

National Wildlife Federation is working closely with many of the federal agencies involved in the development of the new adaptation strategy to develop specific guidance for incorporating climate concerns into their land and water management, an approach known as climate-smart conservation.

“Climate-smart conservation requires that we look to the future rather than the past, and be explicit about how our management actions address key climate impacts and vulnerabilities,” Stein said. “We can make a difference for wildlife’s long-term prospects, and the National Strategy offers a clear roadmap. The longer we wait to take action, though, the more of our natural legacy we are likely to lose, and the more expensive putting in place needed adaptation efforts will become.”

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