Climate Change
Alaska Region   

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Photo of a local harvesting eggs.  Link to interviews with Alaska Native Elders.  Photo Credit: USFWS



Conservation and Management

Woman fishing for tom cod.  Credit:  USFWSThe greatest challenges facing the Alaska Region in the coming years are likely the complex and uncertain impacts anticipated from climate change.  Ecosystems and landscapes of Alaska remain relatively intact and maintaining habitat connectivity and migration routes for fish and wildlife to thrive will be a priority.  Ultimately, our success at ensuring diverse and abundant populations of fish and wildlife and ecologically-functioning landscapes will depend on how quickly we can build needed technical and technological capacities, how well we integrate our efforts with those of our partners and across our programs, and how strategic we are with limited resources. 

Alaskans living in rural areas are dependent on wild resources and are experiencing the effects of climate change directly and severely.  Considerations of climate change must include this vital human dimension, for in Alaska, especially, conservation includes people and the resources and landscapes upon which they depend.

Our Strategy
Our strategic and adaptive approach to climate change will proceed in a progressive manner that will reflect increasing certainty about what actions should be taken and when.  In the short term sustaining or even restoring historic or current conditions by implementing reactive adaptation measures may be necessary to minimize the loss of species, populations, or ecological services.  As certainty increases about system responses and modeled predictions, we will be positioned to begin managing strategically with the goal of facilitating species and systems transition toward anticipated future conditions.  The framework we will apply to achieve our conservation objectives is called “Strategic Habitat Conservation” and includes biological planning, conservation design, conservation delivery and monitoring and research in an adaptive management loop.   

What We Are Doing Now
The Alaska Region is empowering itself to respond to climate change and its effects by:

Promoting long-term, adaptive, collaborative, landscape-based strategic planning

  • The Alaska Region is building its capacity to use the most rigorous scientific modeling tools and to collect the information required to make informed decisions about how best to adapt to climate change.  To facilitate this effort, we are developing a capacity survey to identify the skills required to facilitate consideration of climate change within the SHC process.  Utilizing existing and emerging climate change models, we will focus our conservation actions.

Facilitating the identification, prioritization and implementation of climate change research and monitoring needs in coordination with our partners

  • In response to the challenge of managing fish, wildlife, and habitat in an arctic environment that will likely be significantly altered by a changing climate over the next century, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service convened the WildREACH workshop in November 2008 to advance development of models that predict changes in habitat availability and suitability and to promote collaborative efforts among researchers and managers. 


  • The Alaska Region Refuges program is working with partners to assess, how important habitats and key landscape features are connected, both geographically and administratively, across the state.  This project is assessing both current status and anticipated future conditions with climate change.


Promoting the exchange of scientific and technical information about Alaska’s changing climate

  • The Alaska Region is initiating a monthly climate change lecture series to provide regional staff with up-to-date information and research about the effects of climate change in Alaska and the implications to Service trust resources.
  • More than 250 representatives from the USFWS and the USGS, as well as partner organizations and agencies attended the one-day technical session of the USFWS/USGS Climate Change Forum for Alaska, and 100 Alaska Region and Alaska Science Center staff participated in two days of intra-agency discussions of how the agencies should incorporate climate change into research, monitoring, and management directions.
  • Recommended Reading List

Communicating to diverse audiences about climate change, its effects, and agency responses through this web site and other outreach programs

Reducing our own carbon footprint

  • The Alaska Region is beginning an ambitious effort to reduce its carbon footprint.  Our multi-step strategy includes assessing and documenting existing energy-saving activities within the region, conducting energy audits in the Regional Office and in field offices, and creating an energy-saving plan and implementation schedule.

Working Together
Climate change challenges fish and wildlife conservation at a scale and complexity that demands a strategic and proactive approach that will rely heavily on collaborative partnerships with landowners, State and local governments, Tribes, federal agencies and conservation organizations. 

Climate Change Executive Roundtable
Comprised of senior level executive both federal and non-federal agencies from throughout Alaska, the Climate Change Executive Roundtable meets regularly to share information and facilitate cooperation among agencies.  The first Roundtable met concurrently with the Climate Change Forum for Alaska in February 2007.  Most recently, participants identified shared information needs that lend themselves to multi-agency collaboration.  Four workgroups were identified to address needs for down-scaled climate data and physical parameter monitoring networks; sea level rise and physical hazard assessment; forecasting species and habitat changes; and data integration and collaboration.

Alaska Region Climate Change Advisory Committee
The Alaska Region Climate Change Advisory Committee is a cross-programmatic team with the purpose of recommending to the Regional Directorate proactive short- and long-term strategies for addressing climate change through science, education and outreach, and strategic landscape level planning and conservation

Conservation Challenges and Management Actions
Pacific Walrus Changing Use of Near shore Habitat in Summer (pdf)


Last updated: January 30, 2009
Climate Change
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