Beyond Seasons’ End: A Path Forward for Fish and Wildlife in the Era of Climate Change

Wildlife Management Institute
Posted on: 7/14/2014 - Updated on: 2/27/2020

Posted by

Kate Graves


Since publishing Seasons’ End: Global Warming’s Threat to Hunting and Fishing, the urgency to address the effects of climate change on fish and wildlife has become increasingly evident. Already waterfowl exhibit changes in seasonal distribution. Higher water temperatures and diminished stream habitat are threatening coldwater fish such as trout and salmon. Big game are shifting to more northerly latitudes and to higher elevations to escape summer heat and find suitable forage. With each passing season, the need to develop strategies and invest in management practices to assist fish and wildlife adapting to a warmer world becomes more imperative. The economic, ecological and recreational values of fish, wildlife and their habitats make a persuasive case for conservation, but the legal, moral and ethical responsibilities that humans have to the environment compel the American sporting community to take up this conservation challenge in the 21st century. Historically, our nation has made numerous commitments to the conservation of fish and wildlife and their habitats in the form of legal protections, financial investments and formal recognition of the public benefits, including recreational opportunities, that they provide. To secure these benefits for the American people, Congress has invested in more than 683 million acres of public lands. The return on this national investment will be realized only if those lands and their wild inhabitants are protected and appropriately managed in perpetuity. Beyond our legal and financial obligations, we have a moral and ethical responsibility to conserve fish, wildlife and their habitats. How we respond to the repercussions of climate change will determine the condition of the environment that we pass on to our children; it is our duty to our country and our descendants to protect and preserve the wildlife and wild places that prior generations have bequeathed to us. The spiritual values that we associate with our natural inheritance oblige us to stewardship. A Crucial Role for Sportsmen The consequences of climate change will resonate across this country in an unprecedented fashion. As a result, sportsmen will need to encourage and support state and federal agencies as they respond to this threat with major expansions in projects that attack the problem at the landscape level. They must insist that these agencies use adaptive management techniques and established best practices. Funding will need to go beyond conventional sources and include those without a history of supporting fish and wildlife. Private philanthropic, foundation and corporate investment must be combined with federal, state, and local government dollars. Programs conducted through these efforts will likely be directed toward:

  • reducing present threats to wildlife populations to increase their ability to withstand the immediate consequences of climate change
  • restoring and managing habitat to address the effects of changes in temperature, weather and precipitation patterns on species’ ranges
  • establishing and conserving fish and wildlife movement corridors
  • allocating sufficient water for fish and aquatic habitats
  • adjusting harvest management and population restoration policies
  • preparing regional and national fish and wildlife management plans


Wildlife Management Institute and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. (2009). Beyond Seasons’ End: A Path Forward for Fish and Wildlife in the Era of Climate Change. Bipartisan Policy Center. Retrieved from CAKE