Climate Change Strategy
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service climate change strategy, titled “Rising to the Urgent Challenge: Strategic Plan for Responding to Accelerating Climate Change,” establishes a basic framework within which the Service will work as part of the larger conservation community to help ensure the sustainability of fish, wildlife, plants and habitats in the face of accelerating climate change. The plan is implemented through a dynamic action plan that details specific steps the Service will take during the next five years to implement the Strategic Plan.
The result of more than 18 months of intensive work and thorough discourse within the agency and input from the public, the plan employs three key strategies to address climate change: Adaptation, Mitigation, and Engagement.
Adaptation is defined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as an adjustment in natural or human systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli or their effects, which moderates harm or exploits beneficial opportunities. For the Service, adaptation is planned, science-based management actions that we take to help reduce the impacts of climate change on fish, wildlife, and their habitats. Adaptation forms the core of the Service’s response to climate change and is the centerpiece of our Strategic Plan. This adaptive response to climate change will involve strategic conservation of terrestrial, freshwater, and marine habitats within sustainable landscapes.
Mitigation is defined by the IPCC as human intervention to reduce the sources or enhance the sinks of greenhouse gases. Mitigation involves reducing our “carbon footprint” by using less energy, consuming fewer materials, and appropriately altering our land management practices. Mitigation is also achieved through biological carbon sequestration, the process in which CO2 from the atmosphere is taken up by plants through photosynthesis and stored as carbon in tree trunks, branches and roots. Sequestering carbon in vegetation such as bottomland hardwood forests or native prairie grasses can often restore or improve habitat and directly benefit fish and wildlife.
Engagement involves reaching out to Service employees; local, national and international partners in the public and private sectors; key constituencies and stakeholders; and everyday citizens to join forces and seek solutions to the challenges to fish and wildlife conservation posed by climate change. By building knowledge and sharing information in a comprehensive and integrated way, the Service and its partners and stakeholders will increase our understanding of global climate change impacts on species and their habitats and use our combined expertise and creativity to help wildlife resources adapt in a climate-impacted world.
The Service’s Strategic Plan for Climate Change is a blueprint for action in a time of uncertainty. It calls for the Service to rise to the challenges at hand, lay the foundation for wise decisions in the future and take steps right now to ensure our nation’s fish and wildlife resources will thrive in the years to come.