Thinking Nationally, Acting Locally on Climate Change

By JP Leous

Bristle-thighed curlew. Bar-tailed Godwit. Spectacled Eider. Black Oystercatcher. Kittiwakes. Glaucous-winged gulls. As I sat in a break-out discussion with ecologists at the Western Landscape Conservation Cooperative meeting in Anchorage, AK one thing became clear: I’m glad I wasn’t named by an ornithologist. Another, more troubling, point also became clear: species across the Arctic are coming under increasing threat from climate change—and there’s much work to be done if Alaska’s children are to enjoy the abundance of wildlife their grandparents knew.

The Landscape Conservation Cooperatives and their partner Climate Science Centers are joint initiatives spearheaded by the Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Geological Survey. The goal here is to get experts to work across agencies, geographic lines, and academic disciplines—sharing science, identifying information gaps, devising common priorities, and generally increasing efficiency with the goal of addressing climate impacts on the ground. The stakes could not be higher—all the species (and many more) listed above are in harm’s way due to climate change—and we don’t have the luxury of time nor limitless pocketbooks to throw at the problem.

Keeping our wildlands, and the communities and wildlife that depend on them strong in a warming world will require a host of coordinated responses both at the policy level as well as work on the ground. Those neck-deep in this field call this work “climate change adaptation”—but it’s helpful to think of it as “climate-smart conservation.” For large, intact landscapes (like those found up here in Alaska) the main goal is to keep them that way by guiding development in ways that don’t fragment habitat and otherwise carve up the landscape. Since many of these birds depend on the sea for their food it’s also important to think about policies that protect marine ecosystems as a critical component of on-land climate-smart conservation.

Where habitat has been degraded, by unwanted old logging roads for example, it cannot provide the same quality services like clean air and water.  Fortunately projects rehabilitating wildlands can put people to work today —ensuring it has the best possible chance of weathering the oncoming climate storm and stimulating the local economy

Planning now for future climate effects will certainly take increased coordination and cooperation across agencies, as seen at this LCC meeting—but the returns will be far greater. Hopefully the important planning  engaged in this week will translate to action both on the ground here in Alaska —and on Capitol Hill. Additional funding for both scientific research and project implementation is desperately needed. Making these investments today will create and protect a wide array of jobs , protect valuable ecosystem services (think clean air and water), and be far less costly than waiting to address climate impacts down the road.

Follow JP on Twitter: @twsjp

Kent Miller


Rosie Lopez
Rosie Lopez6 years ago


Valerie G.
Valerie G6 years ago

Thanks for posting this informative article!

Celine V.
Celine V6 years ago

Thanks for posting this very informative article.

Leila Schuck
Leila Schuck6 years ago

I believe that we should act accordingly to prevent climate change from happening because we might not feel the impact of it for now but in the next few years we might be sorry if we did not do anything about it. We can use various energy efficient product to make our first step in preventing it. Green oriented sites such as discuss how window tints can be labeled as one of the most effective way to conserve energy consumption for less compared to other green related technology. can also help you get LEED points for window film and find a dealer near your area.

K s Goh
KS Goh6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Hartson Doak
Hartson Doak6 years ago

There is the effort here in Hawaii to reverse our 80% dependence on oil to 20%. There is an increasing effort to rebuild the native forest. There is an effort to plant natives as landscaping instead of alien species. Our sewer fee is triple the consumption fee to encourage conversation. Hawaii is one of the 1st states to set up for electric vehicles with charging stations and battery exchanging. See what acting locally can do.

Camila K.
Kamila A6 years ago

thank you. If not us caring, who?

Delanee Ramdon
.6 years ago

Great article

Brenda Towers
Brenda Towers6 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

Ghasem A.
Ghasem A.6 years ago