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A Talk on the Wild Side.

Montana: Helping Wildlife Make “Connections” on the Landscape

A grizzly bear turning its head
A project supported by the Great Northern Landscape Conservation Cooperative aims to identify landscape-scale movement opportunities for the grizzly bear and other wildlife species in Montana and Idaho, and adjacent cross-border areas of British Columbia and Alberta. Photo: Terry Tollefsbol/USFWS. Download.

Biologists in Montana and other Rocky Mountain states are looking for ways to identify and maintain connected areas that can help wildlife adjust to changes in climate.

As human influence on the natural landscape increases, climate change causes seasonal ranges and food sources for wildlife to shift, and habitats become more fragmented due to highways and development, scientists need better ways to secure opportunities for wildlife to move between large blocks of protected public land and increase the resiliency of these populations to climate change impacts. 

A project supported by the Great Northern Landscape Conservation Cooperative (LCC) aims to identify landscape-scale movement opportunities for wildlife species in Montana and Idaho, and adjacent cross-border areas of British Columbia and Alberta. The project is one of the first approved for funding by the newly formed Great Northern LCC, one of 21 collaboratives nationwide that form a network of conservation partnerships working to ensure the sustainability of America’s land, water, wildlife and cultural resources. 

Biologists recognize that the changing climate and other environmental stressors may alter the distribution of foods and ranges within ecosystems -- resulting in significant changes in distribution of species on the landscape and making enabling wildlife to move freely and safely even more important.  This project will provide information biologists need to maintain connectivity between important habitats.


Idaho: Streamflow Responses to Climate Change - Why Elevation and Geology Matter

A gorgeous view of a flowing, rocky creek surrounded by tall evergreens
Adaptation iconLocation: Pacific Northwest  
Climate Change Impact: Streamflow response changes 


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The Opal Creek Valley, in the Willamette National Forest, contains 50 waterfalls, five lakes, and 36 miles of hiking trails. It forms the largest intact stand of Old growth forest in the western Cascades and 500-1000 year old trees are common. The most abundant trees are Douglas-fir, Western Redcedar, and Western Hemlock. Credit: David Patte/USFWS.

The waterways of the Pacific Northwest run deep. They unify the region that includes Idaho, Oregon and Washington by connecting the glaciers of its high volcanoes to its fertile valleys to the Pacific Ocean. Water coursing through streams and rivers is the lifeblood critical to urban and agricultural uses and to the vitality of aquatic ecosystems. Many iconic fish species in Idaho and the region such as salmon, steelhead, Pacific lamprey, bull trout and other native trout species, depend upon cool and plentiful stream flows to survive. But climate change is causing many stream flows to respond differently than they have in the past.

A changing climate is already bringing warmer air temperatures, an increasing proportion of winter precipitation falling as rain, earlier snowmelt and reduced spring snow pack. These changes all manifest in stream flow responses with decreased base flows, rising summer water temperatures, and more frequent winter flooding from rain-on-snow events.

Several bull trout up close underwater
Bull trout were listed as threatened in June 1998. Critical habitat was designated in 2005. A recovery plan was drafted in 2005 and has not been finalized. In January 2010, the USFWS proposed a revision of critical habitat. Credit: USFWS.

“The complex work of conserving and recovering fish populations in the Pacific Northwest has grown substantially more challenging in light of our changing climate – this has become increasingly clear in the last several years with recent scientific assessments and projections,” said Dan Shively, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Regional Fish Passage and Habitat Partnerships Coordinator.  “Robust and diverse fish communities require healthy watersheds and habitat; or more simply put, an abundance of cool, clean water.”


Louisiana: Re-planting Forests, Reducing CO2 and Saving Wildlife

A red tractor in a field
Mitigation iconLocation: Lower Mississippi River and Red River Valleys, Louisiana  
Climate Change Impact: Mitigation, to reduce greenhouse gases through biological carbon sequestration (planting trees)
Acres reforested or restored on national wildlife refuges in Louisiana since 1998: Approximately 41,000

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Camera iconPhotos: Tree Planting at Grand Cote and Lake Ophelia

Video iconVideo: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=59cIzj7Zplc

Photo at left: A tractor plants trees at Grand Cote National Wildlife Refuge. Credit: Stacy Shelton, USFWS.

Over the last century, the bayous, swamplands and forested wetlands of Louisiana were cleared, channeled and drastically altered to make room for farms and industry.  As development spread, the state’s wildlife – including ducks, songbirds and the Louisiana black bear -- have seen their habitats shrink apace. 

The toll is apparent even on national wildlife refuges, areas set aside by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service specifically to protect and conserve wildlife.

“Every day, we hear about the impacts of deforestation in the Amazon or Indonesia,” says The Conservation Fund’s Louisiana state director Ray Herndon, “but it has happened in the Gulf Coast area, too. Migratory bird populations have lost more than 24 million acres of bottomland hardwood forest habitat over the last century along the Red River and lower Mississippi River valleys. Habitat destruction is more pronounced here than in any other area of the United States.”

Less than 5 million acres of bottomland hardwood forest remains.

Ducks flying over open land

Ducks and geese fly above wetlands at Grand Cote National Wildlife Refuge in Louisiana. The refuge is an important rest stop for migrating birds making their way from Alaska to the Gulf of Mexico and back along the Mississippi Flyway. The Conservation Fund is helping the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service restore the historic bottomland hardwood forests that feed and shelter shorebirds, blackbirds, warblers and other birds.  Credit: Stacy Shelton/USFWS.

The Fund and the Service, along with energy companies and other partners, are reversing that trend. The goal is to restore the landscape that was degraded by overuse, to benefit both people and wildlife.

More than half the 80,000 acres of reforested or restored land in the Southeast is on 12 national wildlife refuges in Louisiana. The Fund, Trust for Public Land, The Nature Conservancy and other partners have also helped the Service add about 31,400 acres of mostly unproductive farmland to its refuges in Louisiana. The Red River National Wildlife Refuge, established in 2000 in western Louisiana, was the first refuge created through carbon sequestration partnerships.

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