Fish, wildlife, and plants provide jobs, food, clean water, storm protection, health benefits and many other important ecosystem services that support people, communities and economies across the nation every day. The observed changes in the climate are already impacting these valuable resources and systems. These impacts are expected to increase with continued changes in the planet’s climate system. Action is needed now to help safeguard these natural resources and the communities and economies that depend on them.
Faced with a future climate that will be unlike that of the recent past, the nation has the opportunity to act now to reduce the impacts of climate change on its valuable natural resources and resource-dependent communities and businesses. Preparing for and addressing these changes in the near term can help increase the efficiency and effectiveness of actions to reduce negative impacts and take advantage of potential benefits from a changing climate (climate adaptation). In 2009, Congress recognized the need for a national government-wide climate adaptation strategy for fish, wildlife, plants, and ecosystems, asking the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) to develop such a strategy. CEQ and DOI responded by assembling an unprecedented partnership of federal, state, and tribal fish and wildlife conservation agencies to draft the document. More than 90 diverse technical, scientific, and management experts from across the country participated in drafting the technical content of the document.
The result is The National Fish, Wildlife and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy (hereafter Strategy). The Strategy is the first joint effort of three levels of government (federal, state, and tribal) that have primary authority and responsibility for the living resources of the United States to identify what must be done to help these resources become more resilient, adapt to, and survive a warming climate. It is designed to inspire and enable natural resource managers, legislators and other decision makers to take effective steps towards climate change adaptation over the next five to ten years. Federal, state, and tribal governments and conservation partners are encouraged to read the Strategy in its entirety to identify intersections between the document and their mission areas and activities.
The Strategy is guided by nine principles. These principles include collaborating across all levels of government, working with non-government entities such as private landowners and other sectors like agriculture and energy, and engaging the public. It is also important to use the best available science—and to identify where science and management capabilities must be improved or enhanced. When adaptation steps are taken, it is crucial to carefully monitor actual outcomes in order to adjust future actions to make them more effective, an iterative process called adaptive management. We must also link efforts within the U.S. with efforts internationally to build resilience and adaptation for species that migrate and depend on areas beyond U.S. borders. Finally, given the size and urgency of the challenge, we must begin acting now.