Climate Change and Conservation in the Southeast: A Review of State Wildlife Action Plans
Posted byCAKE Team
The Southeast is experiencing high rates of population growth, urbanization, and land use change, which, along with climate change, present considerable challenges to the health and sustainability of the region’s fish and wildlife populations and their habitats. The project documented here was designed to support the Southeast Conservation Adaptation Strategy (SECAS) and its efforts to develop a regional conservation vision in light of these challenges. SECAS consists of diverse state, federal, non-profit, and private organizations, working together to identify and coordinate shared conservation goals and actions for the southeastern United States and Caribbean.
The federally-funded State Wildlife Grant (SWG) Program, and required State Wildlife Action Plans (SWAPs), are important resources that help states identify and protect declining species and their habitats. State Wildlife Action Plans also provide a framework and opportunity to foster the proactive strategies necessary to achieve the vision established under SECAS, and to help ensure that ongoing and future conservation efforts across the region will be as effective as possible. To help set the stage for this continuing work, the Vital Futures Project — a collaboration among the National Wildlife Federation, North Carolina State University, and University of South Carolina — assessed how states have addressed current and projected climate change in their recently-updated Wildlife Action Plans. The project team examined SWAPs from 15 southeastern states and Puerto Rico in order to: 1) identify the various approaches used to address climate change in the recent SWAP updates, 2) highlight key commonalities and differences among the states, and 3) improve understanding of the challenges and opportunities that state agencies face as they address climate change risks. Methods included detailed review of the SWAPs and follow-up interviews with SWAP coordinators. An adapted version of the “climate-smart conservation cycle”  provided the conceptual framework for the data analysis. This examination is intended to illuminate elements of success in these plans and facilitate further progress in both state and regional conservation efforts.