Senate Bill Aims to Safeguard Wildlife Threatened by Climate Change

Conservation groups praise Senators Bingaman, Baucus, Whitehouse and Udall for championing legislation to address climate impacts on wildlife and natural resources

10-27-2009 // Aislinn Maestas

Washington, DC – Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee Chair Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) today introduced legislation aimed at safeguarding wildlife and natural resources, and the essential goods and services they provide to every American, from the harmful effects of climate change. Co-sponsored by Senators Baucus (D-MT), Whitehouse (D-RI) and Udall (D-NM), the “Natural Resources Climate Adaptation Act” (S. 1933) provides a framework for protecting and restoring wildlife and natural resources from the existing and forecasted impacts of climate change. The bill calls for dedicated funding for these safeguards, which is expected to come from revenue generated by clean energy and climate legislation.

Today’s bill builds upon an earlier natural resources adaptation proposal championed by Senators Baucus and Whitehouse, which was included in the Senate’s version of comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation introduced earlier this month by Senate Environment & Public Works Committee Chair Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Foreign Relations Committee Chair John Kerry (D-MA).

“The support of these prominent Senators shows that safeguarding our communities, wildlife and natural resources from the impacts of climate change is as important as complementary efforts to curb the causes of climate change,” said John Kostyack, Executive Director of Wildlife Conservation and Global Warming at the National Wildlife Federation. “This legislation prioritizes climate-smart conservation solutions that meet the scale and scope of the threats facing wildlife and natural resources today.”

“The support of these key senators, including the chair of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the chair of the Finance Committee, reflects the clear and present danger that global warming is presenting to our treasured lands, water and wildlife,” said David Moulton, Director of Climate Policy and Conservation Funding for The Wilderness Society.

The “Natural Resources Climate Adaptation Act” would establish a national policy framework to begin addressing the impacts of climate change on natural resources and would require federal, state and tribal agencies to use the best available science to develop plans and work alongside local groups and private landowners to identify and safeguard vulnerable ecosystems.

Healthy ecosystems provide clean water, clean air and protect communities from catastrophic weather-related disasters. From sustaining the $730 billion outdoor recreation industry, to producing $130 billion in raw forest materials, to providing $23 billion in annual storm surge protections, these natural systems serve as the backbone of public health and the nation’s economy.

“We are seeing wildlife disappear as their habitats are altered by climate change, even in protected national parks,” said Mark Wenzler, Director of Clean Air and Climate Programs for the National Parks Conservation Association. “This bill will help wildlife withstand the ravages of climate change by protecting the air, water, and natural lands that sustain all life, including us.”

To keep these natural resources thriving for future generations, the Senate will need to dedicate approximately five percent of the total allowances from a climate bill towards job-creating conservation initiatives that safeguard wildlife and protect, restore and enhance America’s forests, grasslands, rivers, coasts, and oceans impacted by climate change.

“We’re grateful for the continuing leadership of Senators Bingaman, Baucus, Whitehouse and Udall and their support for investing in the protection of our lands and waters from the current and projected effects of climate change,” said Tom Fry, Senior Policy Advisor for Climate Adaptation at The Nature Conservancy. “It is too easy to forget that our water does not appear magically out of the tap. And clean water is just one of many critical services nature provides to people. Protecting our natural resources from the very real impacts being felt today promotes a resilient future – both for nature and for people.”

“The leadership now being demonstrated by Senator Bingaman, who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, is significant because wildlife can now count on Senators Whitehouse and Udall and four powerful Senate committee chairs (Bingaman, Baucus, Boxer and Kerry) to champion their cause and is further evidence of the strong political support natural resource adaptation enjoys,” said Robert Dewey, Vice President of Government Relations at Defenders of Wildlife.

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