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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes
REGION 8: Region Promotes Climate Change Dialog at Great Basin Science and Management Workshop
Region 8, April 22, 2010

by Scott Flaherty, External Affairs
Regional leaders in science application, endangered species conservation,  and refuge management from the Service’s Pacific Southwest Region contributed to discussions between scientists and managers addressing climate change in the Great Basin and Mojave Desert during a three-day workshop at the University of Nevada – Las Vegas April 20-22, 2010. 

More than 300 scientists, biologists and land managers participated in the workshop, jointly sponsored by the Pacific Southwest Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey, National Park Service, Environmental Protection Agency, Bureau of Land Management, and Desert Research Institute in collaboration with several other agencies and organizations.  Workshop agenda, presentations, video, and posters from the workshop are available at the workshop website.

Rick Kearney, Assistant Regional Director for Science Application, Pacific Southwest Region, and Cynthia Martinez, project leader for the Desert National Wildlife Refuge Complex in southern Nevada, were among 30 presenters at the information-rich workshop.  In addition to oral presentations that paired scientists and managers in addressing a variety of climate change topics, the workshop also featured facilitated breakout sessions to identify the scientific information and management tools needed to mitigate and adapt to ecosystem changes driven by a changing climate.

 “This workshop engaged the talents of researchers, natural resource managers, and conservationists from across the West to begin crafting practical strategies for dealing with the effects of climate change,” said Kearney. 

Kearney’s presentation, Conservation Partnerships in the Great Basin and Mojave, Merging Science with Management, focused on Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCCs), self-directed conservation partnerships among the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, other federal agencies, States, Tribes non-governmental organizations, and others to address the challenges of climate change in an integrated fashion across broad areas.  LCCs provide scientific and technical support for landscape-scale conservation in an adaptive management framework that emphasizes science-based biological planning, conservation design, research, inventory and monitoring.  Most of Nevada is located in the Great Basin LCC, one of 21 LCCs established by the Department of the Interior.  The Region is a key partner in the Great Basin LCC, which is being hosted by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

“Many of our nation’s biggest conservation issues are taking place in the Great Basin and Mojave Desert. Long-term drought, wildfires, invasive species spread, renewable energy development, and the ongoing loss of habitat essential for priority species are all here. Climate change will only make these issues more challenging. If there was ever a time to build closer ties between science and management, it is now,” Kearney said. 

Cynthia Martinez, manager of Desert National Wildlife Refuge Complex, presented Strategies for Species Conservation at National Wildlife Refuges in Southern Nevada.  Martinez spoke about the challenges she faces as a land manager for four National Wildlife Refuges in southern Nevada: Desert, Moapa Valley, Pahranagat, and Ash Meadows NWR.

The 23,000 acre Ash Meadows NWR in southwest Nevada is home to 14 listed species, more than any other refuge in the System.  Restoring habitats to support and recover these species in the face of climate change is challenging traditional thinking about habitat restoration.

“We are at a crossroads,” Martinez said. “As refuge managers, we need to ask if we should be working to restore habitats to what they were in the past, or to what they will be in the future?  The species can’t wait for us. We have to being the process of restoring naturally functioning systems.”

Contact Info: Scott Flaherty, , Scott_Flaherty@fws.gov