Can a National Strategy Help Wildlife Adapt to Climate Change?
Polar bears might come to mind when we think about animals that are already being negatively affected by climate change, but the loss of Arctic sea ice isn’t the only impact of changing temperatures. Growing seasons are being altered and causing species to move to new areas, others are migrating at different times, still others are disappearing entirely and they’re all left vulnerable to more severe weather.
Experts are worried about how the natural world will continue to adapt and how we will feel the effects of those changes and, as common sense would dictate, they believe we need to start taking steps now to safeguard the natural resources that communities, economies and wild animals rely on.
In response to a call in 2010 from Congress for a nationwide conservation plan, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the New York Division of Fish, Wildlife and Marine Resources, along with a diverse team of state and tribal experts, put their collective expertise together and gathered input from non-profits, resource managers and 55,000 Americans to create The National Fish, Wildlife and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy.
The Strategy builds on things that are already being done to protect our environment and offers a roadmap of steps that need to be taken or started over the next five to ten years to reduce the impacts of climate change.
“The health and vitality of our nation’s natural resources are important components of our overall social and economic welfare,” said Eric Schwaab, Assistant Administrator for Fisheries at NOAA. “As resource trustees, we have an obligation to understand, consider and minimize all the potential impacts, including those from climate change. This new strategy will help us meet those challenges and empower current and future generations to be better stewards of our priceless resources and cherished landscapes amidst a rapidly changing world.”
The Strategy points out that most of the current laws, policies and regulations we have in place weren’t developed with the understanding we now have of climate change and how it impacts the environment and wildlife.
The authors hope to see a coordinated effort from policy makers, natural resource managers, private land owners and the public in seven key areas: increasing conservation efforts, updating approaches to species and habitat management, updating conservation laws and policies, supporting coordinated management efforts, improving information sharing, increasing public awareness and involvement and reducing non-climate stressors that are hurting plants and wildlife, such as pollution, illegal trade, invasive species and disease.
With 70 percent of the land in the U.S. now privately owned, it also notes the importance of public involvement and suggested offering easements to create corridors for wildlife to travel through.
The Strategy does have detractors because it’s only a set of voluntary recommendations on helpful changes with no official authority to enact them, although it does recommend establishing a governing body to evaluate how it is implemented and report on progress made.
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