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Sooty Tern. Photo by Peter Kappes.

Service releases climate change strategy for public review and comment

Builds on Secretary Salazar’s DOI climate change order

ATLANTA, GA — On coastal North Carolinas federal wildlife refuges, shorelines are receding and barrier islands are narrowing.

In the Florida Keys, the sooty tern, a sea bird, is showing up to breed three to four months earlier than usual.

Inland, invasive plants such as Alligator Weed are crowding out more desirable food for ducks and geese on refuges in Tennessee and northern Alabama.

These signs, and many others, are consistent with the science on global warming. And the climate models predict far worse, including the extinction of 20 to 30 percent of the worlds species by the end of this century.

As part of the Interior Department’s commitment to building a coordinated strategy to respond to the impacts of accelerating climate change on the nation’s natural resources and safeguard the nation’s fish and wildlife, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is today releasing a draft strategic plan that will guide its efforts to respond to the unprecedented threat posed by global warming.

When finalized, the plan will guide the Service’s response to impacts such as changing wildlife migration patterns, the spread of invasive species, changing precipitation patterns and rising sea levels. It is a key part of the Interior Department’s commitment to building a coordinated response.

The plan, which can be found on the Web at has three key elements:

  • Adaptation – helping to reduce the impacts of climate change on fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats;
  • Mitigation – reducing levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gas pollution in the Earth’s atmosphere. Already, the Service has sequestered millions of tons of carbon on Southeastern refuges by working with energy companies and conservation partners on reforestation and restoration projects; and
  • Engagement – reaching out to Service employees, local, national and international partners in the public and private sectors, key constituencies and stakeholders and the broader citizenry of this country to join forces and seek solutions to the challenges to fish and wildlife conservation posed by climate change.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, in a September 14 secretarial order, established a framework through which Interior bureaus will coordinate climate change science and resource management strategies.

“The growing impacts from climate change on wildlife, plants, and watersheds are a call to action,” said Tom Strickland, Assistant Secretary of the Interior for fish and wildlife and parks. “These impacts call for a coordinated and strategic response from the Department and its bureaus. We will help lead a national response that is grounded in sound science, an adaptive, landscape-scale conservation approach, and collaboration with partners. This is a crucial first step in that direction.”

Sam D. Hamilton, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said the plan lays the foundation for the Service’s role in national efforts to conserve fish and wildlife in a rapidly changing climate “but the plan is not yet complete. It needs constructive input from our most powerful partners—the American public. The public’s involvement is critical, because climate change is bigger than any one agency, department, or government.”

The Service plan outlines a number of commitments intended to reshape the face of conservation and enable the agency to play a leading role in addressing the challenges of a changing climate system. These commitments include:

  • Targeting conservation by working with partners to develop science-based methods to identify the most vulnerable species.
  • Prioritizing existing challenges that will be made more difficult as a result of changing climate, including water scarcity and habitat fragmentation.
  • Leading efforts to develop a National Fish and Wildlife Adaptation Strategy, as outlined in pending climate change legislation in the U.S. Congress, to serve as the conservation community’s shared blueprint to guide wildlife adaptation partnerships during the next 50 years.
  • Creating a National Biological Inventory and Monitoring Partnership that strategically deploys the conservation community’s monitoring resources. Working with DOI’s Regional Climate Change Response Centers, the Partnership would generate scientific data needed to understand climate change effects on the distribution and abundance of fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats; model predicted population and habitat change; and help us determine if we are achieving our goals.
  • Building Landscape Conservation Cooperatives that develop regional and field technical capacity by working with partners to provide cutting edge science and information. These cooperatives, guided by DOI’s newly created Climate Response Council, will be the primary vehicle through which the Service and partners acquire and apply the best climate change science to inform fish and wildlife management decisions and actions.

Theres more at stake than fish and wildlife.

“Its well established that quality of human health is directly linked to proper functioning of ecosystems,” said Dr. George Luber, associate director of the CDC’s Climate Change Program. “The Climate Change Program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) supports the activities of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as outlined in its climate change strategy, as this effort supports the management and promotion of ecosystem integrity, adaptation, and mitigation of the negative human health effects of climate change.”

Larry Schweiger, President of the National Wildlife Federation, said, “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as one of the nations leading stewards of Americas wildlife, is taking an important step forward by committing itself to both reducing global warming pollution and safeguarding fish and wildlife from the impacts of inevitable climate change. Climate change has emerged as the single greatest threat to our nations natural heritage and the Service is well-positioned to play a leadership role in confronting this threat. We especially commend the Service for its collaboration with partners in crafting a national strategy for safeguarding fish and wildlife from climate change impacts. It will take all of us working together to confront climate change and conserve natural systems for people and wildlife.”

Submit Your Comments

The Service requests substantive comments, factual information, and other constructive criticism to help improve the plan. After reviewing the plan, the public can submit comments electronically through November 23, 2009. To view the report, provide comments and find out more about Fish and Wildlife Service efforts to address climate change, visit or

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. or more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit /

To comment on the Services strategy click here.


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Telephone: 703-358-2220

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information on our work and the people who can make it happen, visit Connect with the Service on Facebook, follow our tweets, watch the YouTube Channel and download photos from Flickr.

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