Developing a National Fish, Wildlife, and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy for the United States

Created: 12/17/2010 - Updated: 3/02/2020


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and state and tribal wildlife agencies, created a National Fish, Wildlife, and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy to coordinate climate change responses in both the public and private sector. The strategy, released in March 2013, is a framework to guide responsible adaptation action by natural resource managers around the United States in the face of a changing climate.


Over the last decade, a series of efforts have called for the creation of a nationwide strategy to support natural resources in a changing climate. In 2009, Congress asked the White House Council on Environmental Quality and the U.S. Department of the Interior to cooperate on the development of a climate adaptation strategy for fish, wildlife, and plants. In addition, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar signed Secretarial Order No. 3289 in September 2009, which required bureaus and offices within the Department of the Interior to address mitigation and adaptation responses to climate change in their work. As a result, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released Rising to the Urgent Challenge: Strategic Plan for Responding to Accelerating Climate Change in September 2010, which lays out the Service’s response strategies focused around adaptationmitigation, and engagement. As part of the adaptation focal area, the Service worked with partners to create a National Fish, Wildlife, and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy to act as a blueprint to guide adaptation action over the next 50–100 years.

The partnership is led by three co-chairs – the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the New York Division of Fish, Wildlife, and Marine Resources, representing all state fish and wildlife agencies. The Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, along with an intergovernmental Steering Committee, consisting of 15 federal agencies, five state fish and wildlife agencies, and two inter-tribal commissions, advised on the development of the strategy.


The strategy was developed through an extensive national dialogue. The process started in June 2009, when the Service’s National Conservation Training Center hosted a Conservation Leadership Forum to discuss the drafting of a national adaptation strategy. Attendees included representatives from federal and state natural resource agencies and non-governmental entities. A second forum was held in January 2010 to draft the strategy’s Purpose and Guiding Principles. More than 90 researchers and managers from a diversity of natural resource management agencies across the country participated in the strategy's development.

The strategy’s main goal is to “provide a nationwide unified approach—reflecting shared principles and science-based practices—to safeguard the nation’s biodiversity, ecosystem functions, and sustainable human uses of fish, wildlife, and plants in a changing climate.” Its purpose is to "inspire and enable natural resource professionals and other decision makers to take action to conserve the nation’s fish, wildlife, plants, and ecosystem functions, as well as the human uses and values these natural systems provide, in a changing climate."

The partners emphasized collaboration between all levels of government (federal, tribal, state, and municipal), non-governmental organizations, and private sector entities in developing the strategy, and tried to align the goals of the strategy with other sectoral interests, such as forestry, water management, and agriculture, among others. Implementation of the strategy is expected to provide decision makers, planners, and managers with the information and tools needed in order to respond to and prepare for climate change.

Outcomes and Conclusions

The Service hosted a series of listening sessions at various professional venues, meetings, and conferences to present the purpose and process of creating the strategy over the last few years. A draft was released in early 2012 for review and public comment; over 55,000 comments were received and the Obama Administration released the final strategy on March 26, 2013. The strategy includes seven goals to enhance the resilience of species and habitats in a changing climate – conserving habitat, protecting ecosystem function, enhancing capacity for management, supporting adaptive management, increasing knowledge and understanding of climate change impacts, enhancing public awareness and action, and reducing non-climate stressors. Each goal is accompanied by relevant strategies, actions, and case studies, where applicable. The final strategy may be viewed here.


Information gathered through interview and survey with Donna Brewer in 2011 and updates from Kate Freund in 2013. Updated March 26, 2013


Gregg, R. M. (2010). Developing a National Fish, Wildlife, and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy for the United States [Case study on a project of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service]. Product of EcoAdapt's State of Adaptation Program. Retrieved from CAKE:… (Last updated March 2013)

Project Contact(s)

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the premier government agency dedicated to the conservation, protection, and enhancement of fish, wildlife and plants, and their habitats. It is the only agency in the federal government whose primary responsibility is management of these important natural resources for the American public. The Service also helps ensure a healthy environment for people through its work benefiting wildlife, and by providing opportunities for Americans to enjoy the outdoors and our shared natural heritage.

NOAA is an agency that enriches life through science. Our reach goes from the surface of the sun to the depths of the ocean floor as we work to keep citizens informed of the changing environment around them. From daily weather forecasts, severe storm warnings and climate monitoring to fisheries management, coastal restoration and supporting marine commerce, NOAA’s products and services support economic vitality and affect more than one-third of America’s gross domestic product.

The Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies represents North America’s fish and wildlife agencies to advance sound, science-based management and conservation of fish and wildlife and their habitats in the public interest.


Scale of Project
Community / Local
Multilateral / Transboundary
National / Federal
Regional / Subnational
State / Provincial
Tribal / First Nation
Sector Addressed
Conservation / Restoration
Development (socioeconomic)
Target Climate Changes and Impacts
Air temperature
Diseases or parasites
Fishery harvest
Habitat extent
Invasive / non-native species, pests
Ocean acidification
Phenological shifts
Range shifts
Salinization / Saltwater intrusion
Sea level rise
Species of concern
Storms or extreme weather events
Water quality
Water supply
Water temperature
Climate Type
3-5 years
Type of Adaptation Action/Strategy
Natural Resource Management / Conservation
Incorporate future conditions into natural resources planning and policies
Incorporate climate change into harvest/take policies
Incorporate climate change into critical habitat rules / species recovery plans
Incorporate climate change into threatened / endangered species designations
Incorporate climate change into environmental impact statement (EIS) requirements
Enhance migration corridors and other connectivity measures
Create new refugia / Increase size and amount of protected areas
Reduce non-climate stressors
Capacity Building
Design or reform institutions
Increase organizational capacity
Coordinate planning and management
Increase / Improve public awareness, education, and outreach efforts
Conduct / Gather additional research, data, and products
Create stakeholder engagement processes to develop and implement adaptation strategies
Governance and Policy
Create new or enhance existing policies or regulations
Taxonomic Focus
Other Invertebrates
Effort Stage
In progress

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