Conservation Science
Northeast Region
Hurricane Sandy. Credit: NOAA/NASA


Conservation in a Changing Climate

"Like the resource it seeks to protect, wildlife conservation must be dynamic, changing as conditions change, seeking always to become more effective.:" – Rachel Carson

Today the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and conservation community at large face issues of scale, pace and complexity unheard of in Rachel Carson's time. When the conservationist's seminal work Silent Spring was published in 1962, the world's human population was slightly more than 3 billion. Today it is more than 7 billion people and is expected to reach nearly 9 billion by the year 2042. As the number of people has increased — along with rapid industrialization and development — resource management challenges such as habitat fragmentation, contamination, pollution, invasive species, disease and threats to water quality and quantity have grown as well.

Accelerating climate change will exacerbate all of these resource threats and affect our nation's fish, wildlife, and plant resources in profound ways. While many species will continue to thrive, some populations may decline, many will shift their ranges substantially, and still others will face increased risk of becoming extinct. Others will survive in the wild only through direct and continuous intervention by wildlife and fisheries managers. This defining challenge for the conservation community requires the Service and its partners to apply the skill, determination, creativity, and commitment to conserving the nation's natural resources that have defined the American conservation movement since its inception more than 160 years ago.

Our Response

The Service's Climate Change Strategic Plan 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 begin taking steps right now to begin a continuous and dynamic process of actions that will be crucial to conserving our nation's fish and wildlife resources in the years to come.

The plan establishes a basic framework within which the agency 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. It is also an integral part of the Department of the Interior's Strategy for addressing climate change, and will enable the Service to play a key role in achieving Departmental objectives related to climate change.

Key aspects of our response include:

  • Adaptation: Helping fish and wildlife adjust to the impact of climate change and moderating impacts through the application of cutting-edge science in managing species and habitats.
  • Mitigation: Reducing levels of greenhouse gases in the Earth's atmosphere.
  • Engagement: Joining forces with others to seek solutions to the challenges and threats to fish and wildlife conservation posed by climate change.

The Service's strategic response employs a science-based adaptive resource management framework for conserving species on a landscape scale. Working with others, we will bring to bear the best available planning, research, monitoring, and management tools to deliver conservation in the right places at the right time to address the challenges posed by climate change.

Last updated: June 19, 2017