A Three-Step Decision Support Framework for Climate Adaptation: Selecting Climate-Informed Conservation Goals and Strategies for Native Salmonids in the Northern U.S. Rockies

The impact of climate change on cold-water ecosystems—and the cold-adapted native salmonids present in these systems—is the subject of a substantial body of research.. Recently, scientists have developed a number of datasets and analyses that provide insight into projections of climate change e ects on native salmonid populations in the northern U.S. Rockies region. Alongside this research, a number of management options for helping native salmonids respond to the e ects of climate change—also known as ‘climate adaptation’ strategies and actions—have been identi ed by scientists and managers in the region. These analyses and climate adaptation options o er valuable information to managers charged with making di cult decisions about where and how to best conserve and restore the region’s native salmonids given the challenges posed by shifting climatic conditions. Yet managers in the region continue to identify challenges in applying available information on climate change impacts, particularly in determining forward-looking conservation goals and selecting appropriate actions from the long menu of available climate adaptation options.


To augment this research and compilation of climate-informed management options, we have developed a decision support framework aimed at helping managers think critically about how to apply climate information to their management decisions. Speci cally, our framework is meant to help managers:

1) articulate an appropriate conservation goal for cold-adapted native salmonid populations taking into account the impacts of climate change on habitat suitability, threats from non-native sh, and connectivity;

2) consider the climate adaptation strategies that might best support that goal; and

3) identify actions that are available to implement the chosen strategies.

Given the complexity and uncertainty of conserving cold-adapted species in an era of rapid climate change and the limited resources available for conservation, choices about where to invest conservation dollars require defensible and transparent decision making. The three-step decision framework we provide here is meant to be a starting point to help managers document how they have incorporated information on climate change into their management decisions and prioritization of limited resources. The process used to develop the framework for native salmonids can be used to tailor decision support for additional conservation targets of interest. Ultimately, managers can integrate this climate change thinking into existing conservation strategies and management plans, alongside the myriad other regulatory, social, economic and locally-driven factors and mandates that in uence management decisions.

2010 California Regional Transportation Plan Guidelines

Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) and Regional Transportation Planning Agencies (RTPAs) are required to adopt and submit an updated Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) to the California Transportation Commission (Commission) and the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) every four or five years depending on air quality attainment within the region. Regional transportation improvement projects proposed to be funded, in whole or in part, in the State Transportation Improvement Program must be included in an adopted RTP.

The Commission is authorized under statute to prescribe study areas for analysis and evaluation by regional transportation agencies and guidelines for the preparation of RTPs. The Commission, in consultation with Caltrans and the California Air Resources Board (ARB) is also required to maintain guidelines for travel demand models used in the development of RTPs by MPOs.

On April 7, 2010, the Commission adopted revisions to the RTP Guidelines . The revisions were prepared through the work of an Advisory Committee representing MPOs, RTPAs, federal, state and local governments, organizations knowledgeable in the creation and use of travel demand models, and organizations concerned with the impacts of transportation investments on communities and the environment. The Commission appreciates the members of the Advisory Committee for their dedication to develop guidelines that promote the successful implementation of statutory requirements as well as consistency through an integrated, statewide approach to the transportation planning process.

The guidelines reflect recent revisions to address the planning requirements of Senate Bill (SB) 375 (SB 375, Steinberg, Statutes of 2008) and other planning practices. SB 375 targets regional greenhouse gas emission reductions from passenger vehicles and light duty trucks through changes in land use and transportation development patterns. To achieve these changes, the law encourages MPOs to think differently about how communities are designed. As a result, MPOs, in partnership with local governments, are now required to develop a sustainable communities strategy as part of the transportation planning process for inclusion in the RTP. The sustainable communities strategy should demonstrate the land use and transportation measures that will be used to meet the region's greenhouse gas emission reduction target established by ARB. The inclusion of the sustainable communities strategy as a part of the RTP represents a significant change to an MPOs traditional transportation planning process by adding the strategy as a new element and requiring internal consistency among all elements of the RTP.

In addition to addressing SB 375, the guidelines set forth a uniform transportation planning framework throughout the state that identifies federal and state requirements for the development of RTPs. However, the guidelines are intended to provide flexibility and options for transportation decision makers recognizing geographic diversity and complexity. The development of sustainable communities strategies in the planning process is a critical step to a better future. The Commission will continue to utilize whatever resources are available to us to help the regions develop transportation investments consistent with these strategies.

The Garden State in the Greenhouse: Climate Change Mitigation and Coastal Adaptation Strategies for New Jersey

Climate change poses a significant threat to New Jersey’s economic, social and environmental future. In the absence of federal leadership, states must take the lead on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to the impacts of climate change, including sea level rise and increasingly frequent and damaging storms.

New Jersey has already taken many important steps toward a responsible climate change policy, such as the Governor’s recent appointment of a Director of Energy Savings. However, the scale of the problem and its potential consequences for the state mean that more and bolder steps are required to preserve the quality of life in New Jersey now and in the future.

This report outlines a strategy for moving toward an adequate response to climate change while at the same time advancing the State’s economic growth. New Jersey should enact innovative strategies that will not only reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and protect its coastline, but will also bring new industries, technologies and jobs to the state. To accomplish this, the State should take action in six major areas:

1. Establish New Jersey’s regional and national leadership on climate change by:

  • Announcing and implementing a mandatory 2020 GHG emissions cap and an ambitious 2050 emissions reduction target through an economy-wide cap-and-trade system, enhanced efficiency measures and incorporation of emission reduction goals into State planning, purchasing and other activities;
  • Creating a Climate Change Division within the Office of Economic Growth to direct all emissions reduction and adaptation research in collaboration with a high-level inter-agency task force and with input from a stakeholder advisory council; and
  • Launching and leading a network of “Cool States” committed to reducing emissions based on legally binding caps and hosting a TransAtlantic summit on climate change that would bring together policy-makers, business leaders and clean energy technology innovators from Europe, Canada, and the US to exchange best practices, promote technological advances and showcase investment and business opportunities.

​2. Link climate change policies to economic growth and workforce development by:

  • Capitalizing on New Jersey’s competitive advantages in high-tech businesses to cultivate a clean energy sector through an explicit focus on clean energy businesses at the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) as well as the State’s innovation funds and incubators;
  • Creating a “green jobs” track within the State’s community college vocational training system and working with non-profit organizations and trade unions to link residents in high-unemployment areas to training and placement in green building construction, installation and maintenance of energy-efficient and renewable energy equipment and auto-mechanic services for hybrid and plug-in vehicles; and
  • Increasing demand for clean and green jobs through the strategic use of State incentives; and
  • Establish a “Green Gold” pilot program in the city of Newark that would lower the energy costs of residents and businesses, support green building standards in new construction, and train and place under- and unemployed workers in green construction, installation and maintenance jobs in the city and regionally.

3. Boost energy efficiency gains through:

  • An energy use surcharge balanced by a reduction in corporate payroll tax for state businesses;
  • Enhanced incentives for residents to purchase energy-efficient equipment;
  • Demand-Side Management to align incentives of energy distributors with efficiency rather than sales; and
  • Increased funding (through auctioning 100 percent of Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative emissions allowances) and improved targeting of funds in the State’s Clean Energy Program for cost-effective emissions reduction.

4. Make transportation more efficient and make development smarter by:

  • Making reductions in Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) an explicit goal of State planning documents and more aggressively promoting transit-oriented planning and development; and
  • Promoting alternative fuels and encouraging increased fuel efficiency standards, starting with the State’s vehicle fleet and vehicles used by local governments and schools.

5. Improve State preparedness for sea level rise and increased frequency & intensity of storms by:

  • Producing vulnerability assessments and cost-benefit reports evaluating the impact of climate change on the coasts and incorporating the findings into NJDEP rules and State and local planning, land use and public investment decisions;
  • Ensuring that emergency management plans account for projections about rising sea levels and storms;
  • Enhancing pre-storm planning for post-storm management, including strategic land preservation and guidelines for whether, where and how to rebuild following storm damage; and
  • Partnering with the insurance industry to shield coastal residents from catastrophic losses.

6. Increase Public Awareness about Climate Change Impacts and Support for State Action by:

  • Creating a statewide awareness campaign that includes a user-friendly website and advertisements in print and broadcast media; and
  • Taking immediate steps to ensure that education about climate change in New Jersey’s public schools is continued and expanded.

Adapting Conservation to a Changing Climate: An Update to the Illinois Wildlife Action Plan

Since the first iteration of the Illinois Wildlife Action Plan was developed in 2005 (Illinois Department of Natural Resources 2005), considerably more information on potential threat of global climate change to natural and human systems has become available (e.g., International Panel on Climate Change 2007). These developments include further refinement to global climate change models, climate projections downscaled to regions, and likely effects of climate change on agriculture, human communities, ecosystems and biodiversity. In Illinois, the most profound effects of climate change are likely to be dangerous summer heat, a longer growing season, more flooding due to increased winter and spring rainfall in events >2 inches/day, increased summer drought, and lowered water levels in Lake Michigan (Union of Concerned Scientists 2009).

Over the same period, strategies to increase resilience, increase adaptive capacity, and mitigate the effects of climate change have emerged, and continue to evolve rapidly (Game et al. 2010, Groves et al. 2010, Hansen et al. 2010, Heller and Zavaleta 2009). Climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies have recently been incorporated into the work of Chicago Wilderness though a Climate Action Plan for Nature (Chicago Wilderness Climate Change Task Force 2010a) and an ongoing Climate Change Update to the Biodiversity Recovery Plan (Chicago Wilderness Change Task Force 2010b; A. Derby-Lewis, pers. comm.).

In 2009, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources initiated a process to incorporate climate change considerations into the Illinois Wildlife Action Plan. Based in part on the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies‟ Voluntary Guidance for States to Incorporate Climate Change into State Wildlife Action Plans & Other Management Plans (Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies 2009), this project had four explicit objectives:

  1. Conduct a climate vulnerability assessment of Species in Greatest Need of Conservation and major habitat types. We assessed the vulnerability of a subset of Species in Greatest Need of Conservation by employing the NatureServe Climate Change Vulnerability Index. This index was based on direct exposure to local climate change, downscaled from climate models; indirect exposure to climate change such as anthropogenic barriers to dispersal; sensitivity to climate, such as species‟ tolerance of climate variability over time or across geographic areas; and adaptive capacity including dispersal ability and genetic variation. The vulnerability of major habitat types was qualitatively evaluated based on projected changes in temperature, precipitation, drought, fire frequency, and flood frequency/intensity. Evaluating the factors anticipated to cause climate stress to species and habitats across Illinois informs adaptation strategies likely to have the broadest benefits.
  2. Identify conservation strategies that increase resilience or adaptive capacity, or mitigate the effects of climate change. The seven campaigns of the Wildlife Action Plan were revisited to identify strategies that are particularly important given the realities of climate change, strategies that may need to be modified or reconsidered, and additional actions that were not included in Version 1.0 of the Illinois Wildlife Action Plan. We focused on strategies that are likely to be effective under both current and future climates (such as restoring connectivity and managing for ecological function), and considered the current and likely future conditions of natural divisions and watersheds to select regionally-appropriate strategies.
  3. Outline an adaptive management approach for informing management decisions. Because of the large and unavoidable uncertainties of global, regional and local effects of climate change, and the complexity of potential biological and human responses to climate change, conservationists will need to employ adaptive management approaches. Unlike the typical, watered-down, „we will make changes along the way‟ usage, adaptive management is a rigorous, iterative process of setting goal-based objectives, deploying strategies as experiments or learning actions, and a data-driven evaluation of results compared to objectives and effectiveness of alternate strategies.
  4. Recommend changes to existing monitoring programs and identify research needs. Illinois has many monitoring programs in place, including the Critical Trends Assessment Program which monitors the status and trends of the state‟s forests, grasslands, wetlands, and streams. An effective adaptive management framework will require implementation and effectiveness monitoring: a way of answering, “did we undertake the actions at the scale prescribed in the Illinois Wildlife Action Plan, and did those actions have the intended effects?”

This report is intended to function as a stand-alone document that addresses the four objectives described above, but is also presented in a format that corresponds to the Illinois Wildlife Action Plan. We hope this format will facilitate cross-walking information from this document and the Wildlife Action Plan, and facilitate integration of climate change considerations into the Wildlife Action Plan during a formal update and revision process.

Adaptation of Agriculture and the Food System to Climate Change: Policy Issues

One of the most important sectors of the economy, U.S. agriculture depends heavily on climate. Farms and ranches are also the largest group of owners and managers of land that impacts ecosystem services, such as greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation, water quality and quantity regulation, and wildlife habitat and biodiversity conservation. In addition, agriculture is playing an increasingly important role in the energy sector through biofuels production. Consequently, the impacts of climate change on agriculture, and agriculture’s ability to adapt to and mitigate the impacts of climate change, are critical issues for agricultural households as well as the general public and public policy decisionmakers.

This policy brief summarizes the findings of a longer report on the potential impacts of climate change and the potential for the U.S. agricultural sector to adapt to climate change (Antle 2009), and then addresses the policy implications of these findings. 

Caltrans Activities to Address Climate Change Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Adapting to Impacts

This report provides a comprehensive overview of activities undertaken by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and adapt the state’s transportation system to prepare for the impacts of climate change. It also identifies opportunities for additional reductions in GHG emissions and climate adaptation activities that Caltrans may wish to consider in the future.

The goals of the report are to:

  • Help spread information about best practices in GHG mitigation and climate change adaptation among Caltrans staff working in different divisions and districts, as well as among other transportation agencies;
  • Aid staff at other state agencies in identifying potential opportunities for collaboration with Caltrans in efforts to meet statewide GHG reduction and energy efficiency targets; and
  • Inform the public about the status of Caltrans’ initiatives to address climate change.

The report qualitatively discusses activities that are underway across Caltrans divisions and districts, and provides quantitative information on GHG reduction initiatives wherever possible.

Preliminary Study of Climate Adaptation for the Statewide Transportation System in Arizona

This research study presents recommendations for the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) to continue working toward being more resilient, flexible, and responsive to the effects of global climate change. The main objectives were to identify key individuals within ADOT with decisionmaking authority relevant in incorporating climate change adaptation in planning, design, and operations; review literature and best practices for climate change adaptation as relevant to the desert Southwest; develop a research agenda for ADOT to further understand the impacts of climate change on the agency (including a knowledge-mapping exercise using an online survey questionnaire, structured interviews, and focus groups); and identify key areas for further research.

By initiating this study, there is already an internal interest and momentum at ADOT for climate adaptation planning. Without institutional support, however, it will be difficult to continue forward with the research agenda in a more extensive study. To move beyond a preliminary assessment, ADOT will have to find ways to bring its lessons learned to the forefront and into the national spotlight. This study reveals that ADOT already experiences extreme heat and dust storms, and thus it will be the first to develop tools and techniques that can be applied to other states and regions that will experience climate impacts that Arizona will face first. The study provides some recommendations for ADOT to tap into the national dialogue on climate adaptatio

City of Portsmouth, New Hampshire Coastal Resilience Initiative: Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment and Adaptation Plan

Research shows how the climate of New Hampshire and the Seacoast region has changed over the past century, and predicts that the future climate of the region will be affected by human activities that are warming the planet. The most current climate report for New Hampshire (Wake et al, 2011) describes historic trends over the past century and likely changes in New Hampshire’s climate over the next century and is designed to help residents and communities plan and prepare for changing climate conditions.1

Overall, New England has been getting warmer and wetter over the last century, and the rate of change has increased over the last four decades according to detailed analysis of data collected at four meteorological stations (Durham and Concord NH; Lawrence, MA; and Portland, ME).

  • Since 1970, mean annual temperatures have warmed, with the greatest warming occurring in winter.
  • Average minimum and maximum temperatures have also increased over the same time period, with minimum temperatures warming faster than mean temperatures.
  • Both the coldest winter nights and the warmest summer nights are getting measurably warmer.

The Coastal Resilience Initiative (CRI) is the City of Portsmouth’s first look at the potential impact from a changing climate. Coastal communities like Portsmouth are most vulnerable to impacts of sea level rise and coastal storm surge.

The objectives of the Coastal Resilience Initiative were to:

  • Describe the range of climate change and sea level rise scenarios that researchers have identified for the New Hampshire Seacoast region;
  • Map four sea level elevations to show how these scenarios would impact the City of Portsmouth in the next 40 to 90 years;
  • Using these maps, identify physical assets (buildings and infrastructure) and natural resources that are vulnerable to sea level rise and coastal storm surge;
  • Develop preliminary strategies for adapting to future conditions, and estimates of the costs of these adaptation actions;
  • Provide recommendations to guide adaptation planning, including policies and regulations.

The study products include a set of flood elevation maps, a vulnerability assessment, a preliminary outline of potential adaptation strategies, and recommendations for future planning, regulation and policies. This report represents a starting point for the City to identify avenues to implement adaptation measures that impart resiliency in the built environmental and protect natural systems.

Study Purpose and Limitations

The purpose of this report is to provide a broad overview of spatial and temporal risk and vulnerability of public and private assets as a result of projected changes in climate. This report should be used for preliminary and general planning purposes only, not for parcel-level or site- specific analyses.

The best available predictive information about future climatic conditions specific to sea level rise were utilized in the preparation of this report which with LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) data collected by aircraft in 2011 serves as the primary source information for this project. That said, the vulnerability assessment performed for the project was limited by several factors including the vertical accuracy of elevation data (derived from LiDAR) and the static analysis applied to map coastal areas subject to future flooding which does not consider wave action and other coastal dynamics. Also, the estimated damages to buildings and infrastructure listed in Table 4 of the report are based upon the elevations of the land surrounding them, not the structure itself.

The modeled information in this report is based on the best understanding of the current and predicted future climate for this region. As model results and climate based projections are improved this report and reports of this type will need to be updated to reflect that new information, which could change the predicted amount of sea level rise and future climate impacts.

Addressing Climate Change Adaptation in Regional Transportation Plans A Guide for California MPOs and RTPAs

The reality of a changing climate means that transportation and planning agencies need to understand the potential effects of changes in storm activity, sea levels, temperature, and precipitation patterns; and develop strategies to ensure the continuing robustness and resilience of transportation infrastructure and services. This is a relatively new challenge for California’s MPOs and RTPAs – adding yet one more consideration to an already complex and multifaceted planning process. In that light, this guide is intended to support planning agencies in incorporating the risks of climate change impacts into their existing decision-making, complementing the broader planning and investment processes that MPOs and RTPAs already manage.

This guide was designed to account for the varying capacities and resources among MPOs and RTPAs, featuring methods that can be used by organizations seeking to conduct a more sketch-level assessment of the risk and vulnerability of the regional transportation assets to climate impacts, or in-depth analysis that incorporates separate stakeholder processes and geospatial analyses. It is oriented to provide information for two types of audiences.

  • A Basic User, a MPO or RTPA conducting climate impact assessments and/or climate vulnerability and risk assessments for the very first time. This pathway is appropriate for agencies with limited resources and GIS capability.
  • An Advanced User, a MPO or RTPA that has experience with climate impact assessments, has strong interagency partnerships with universities, natural resources agencies or public works departments and have more staff resources and technical tools to dedicate to the effort.

For both of these user types, this guide is a resource to help MPOs and RTPAs to: 

  • Assess the relative risks to their transportation system infrastructure and services of different climate stressors (sea-level rise, temperature changes, precipitation changes, extreme weather events); 
  • Conduct an asset inventory and vulnerability assessment of existing infrastructure;
  • Incorporate climate impact considerations into future long-range transportation planning and investment decisions.

Currently, there is no requirement to date to incorporate climate adaptation into regional transportation planning. Nevertheless, this guide provides information and tools to help MPOs/RTPAs anticipate the incorporation of climate assessment and adaptation into future planning efforts.

Regional Climate Adaptation Planning Alliance: Report on Climate Change and Planning Frameworks for the Intermountain West

Major cities in the arid and semi-arid areas of the Western US have developed a Regional Climate Adaptation Planning Alliance to develop a common regional approach to adaptation planning – including a collective vision of resilience, planning frameworks and information sharing opportunities. This Alliance is founded on its members’ shared goal to make climate change adaptation a priority at the local level and the collective understanding that successful climate change adaptation requires regional collaboration. Subsequent sections of this report lay out a vision for resilience in the West; suggest common adaptation goals for municipalities in the region; describe the rationale for action on adaptation; establish common assumptions about climate change scenarios; and identify common focus areas and planning frameworks.

Sections 1 and 2 outline a collective vision for a region resilient to changing climate conditions. The vision describes a positive future in which Western communities identify the trends and hazards that threaten quality of life, and take the initiative to respond locally and regionally in building stronger communities, economies, and ecosystems. Section 2 outlines the principles that can guide Alliance members in achieving its vision of resilience.

Moving from the vision toward planning steps, Section 3 elaborates on the following six reasons to engage in climate change adaptation:

  1. The climate has already changed and future changes are highly certain.
  2. Climate change poses a threat to existing community priorities and commitments.
  3. Today’s decisions have long legacies, thereby shaping tomorrow’s vulnerabilities.
  4. Planning now can save money, while inaction now will lead to higher costs in the future.
  5. Planning for uncertainty is not new, and can be integrated into current planning frameworks.
  6. Adaptation has co-benefits for other community priorities.

Section 4 is a focused summary of current climate change science that is relevant to the broad region of the Intermountain West. It provides the scientific basis for planning and outlines the historic and projected shifts in two primary changing climate conditions – temperature and precipitation. Additionally, information on snowpack and streamflow, secondary climate change condisioins, is provided due to the significant role these factors play in the region. The report draws on existing academic literature and finds overwhelming evidence that the region will experience a trend toward higher temperatures with a projected rise in 2020 to between 1.9 and 3 °F above a 1960 – 1979 baseline.1 The report also found significant evidence that the region will likely see declining snowpack and streamflow over the long term. While projections for temperature and snowpack are more certain, the variability of precipitation patterns currently prevents to scientists from discerning a definite trend for the region. The section concludes with key information for understanding climate change including shifting averages, increasing extremes, and the timing of change.

Although temperature, precipitation, and snowpack projections are important to understand in themselves, communities are often most concerned with the impacts of climate change to communities. Section 5 presents key climate change impacts for the region, covering five different sectors – Water Resources; Agriculture and Food Security; The Built Environment and Extreme Events; Public Health; and Economic Impacts. The section also includes key information about the interdependencies of climate change impacts.

Water resources will be severely impacted by a number of key factors, but the ability to meet consumer demand in multiple sectors could be most threatened by increasing dryness. The built environment is most threatened by future increases in flooding, wildfire risk and energy disruptions. The report finds that the biggest concern for the public health sector is likely to be the increase in heat-related morbidity and mortality over the coming decades. Although the secondary impacts to the regional economy are not as clearly understood, the costs of inaction are likely to be very high. For water supply alone, the cost of climate impacts could be as high as nearly 1 trillion dollars annually by 2100.2 .

The final three sections provide additional information to help the Alliance pursue its next steps. Section 6 uses ICLEI’s Climate Resilient CommunitiesTM (CRC) Five Milestones for Climate Adaptation planning framework to describe the general approach of climate adaptation planning. The section also outlines three different options for local governments to work through this framework: 1) Stand-alone adaptation planning 2) Integrated adaptation planning and 3) Sector-specific adaptation planning. Section 7 provides guidance and options for information-sharing among Alliance participants. Finally, Section 8 identifies the following near-term objectives for Alliance activities:

  1. Establishing a regular dialogue by conference call or online meeting; 
  2. Creating a resolution articulating the group’s intentions and goals;
  3. Adoption of the resolution by local governing bodies; and
  4. Developing an online platform for information-sharing.