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Director's Corner

Dan Ashe served as FWS Director from June 2011 until January 2017. The following is an archive of blogs authored by Director Ashe during that time. This content is intended for historical reference only and not as a representation of current Service policy or opinion.

Adapting to Climate Change, for the Good of Wild Things and the Nation

As I walk around my neighborhood near Washington, DC, I see daffodils brightening gardens and lawns, poking up through the snow.

Daffodils are just one of the flowers blooming earlier. Credit: Kevin Rutherford, Wikimedia Commons

No one really minds seeing flowers that remind us that spring is coming, but these early blooms are just one of the many impacts of a changing climate, and most aren’t as friendly as a spot of yellow in your yard.

With our newly released National Fish, Wildlife and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy, developed with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, state wildlife agencies and many others, the United States has a solid plan to meet the challenge of climate change. Climate change is not a myth. It is not something for future generations to deal with. It is happening now, and we must address it, not tomorrow or the next day or the day after that. But today!

Many flowers are blooming earlier. Plants and animals are moving to new ranges.  Waterfowl are migrating later in the fall and not as far south. 

Some of the less-pleasant impacts include rising sea levels, more intense and violent storms, warmer temperatures, loss of sea ice and changing precipitation patterns – trends scientists have connected to climate change. These are already affecting the species we care about, the services we value and the places we call home.

Consider the mountain pine beetle, a bug no bigger than the end of a matchstick. Triggered by a “perfect storm” of extended droughts, warm winters, and old, dense forests, beetle populations have devastated lodgepole pine forests across landscapes in Colorado and southeastern Wyoming, which provide breeding and foraging habitat for many coniferous wildlife species, including song birds, woodpeckers and red squirrels.

The same habitats that sustain wildlife provide people with many important products and services—including jobs, recreation, food, clean air and water, building materials and storm protection.

The strategy offers a framework for safeguarding our nation’s wild things, wild places and those many communities and economies they sustain.

It outlines goals, strategies and actions needed over the next five to 10 years to reduce impacts and increase the resiliency of fish, wildlife, plants, and the communities and economies that depend on them.

Above all, it is a compass for ensuring that wildlife – and our nation – are heading in the right direction. 

Like I said, it’s hard to dislike seeing daffodils, but it is nicer to see them when you aren’t wearing a parka.


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