National Fish, Wildlife, and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy: Advancing the National Fish, Wildlife, and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy into a New Decade

Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies’ Climate Adaptation Committee and National Fish, Wildlife, and Plants Climate Adaptation Network
Posted on: 3/16/2021 - Updated on: 3/16/2021

Posted by

Kathryn Braddock



In 2009, at the behest of Congress, the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and the US Department of the Interior (DOI) were asked to develop a national, government-wide climate adaptation strategy for fish, wildlife, plants, and ecosystems. In doing so, the U.S. Federal Government recognized the immensity of climate change impacts on the Nation’s vital natural resources, as well as the critical need for partnership among federal, state, and tribal fish and wildlife agencies. More than 90 diverse technical, scientific, and management experts from across the country participated in the development and, in 2012, the National Fish, Wildlife, and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy (Strategy) was published. 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,” the time has come for the natural resource community to consider the impact of the Strategy, while identifying the necessary evolution of it, to continue to effectively safeguard the Nation’s natural resources in a changing climate.

This report is not meant to replace the Strategy, nor be an addendum to it. Rather, the development of this report was intended to take a high-level review of what has changed in the field of climate change adaptation, how the Strategy has or has not been effectively implemented at federal, state, tribal, and nonprofit levels, and provide recommendations for its future update and implementation. This report is split into three parts. Part I briefly describes what has changed in our understanding of climate change and climate adaptation science, as well as how the emerging field of the adaptation practice has grown. Part II cross-walks the Strategy goals with a variety of conservation plans made at federal, state, tribal, and nonprofit levels to assess where and how the Strategy has been implemented or been an influence over the past decade. Finally, Part III summarizes the findings of this report by laying out recommendations. These recommendations include thirteen voluntary management actions designed to highlight and address the needs and challenges of the natural resource community in the new decade.

Of note, our most significant recommendation is for the addition of a new Strategy goal that focuses on the need and opportunities to better integrate people into climate adaptation efforts fish, wildlife, plants, and the ecosystems on which people depend. This recommendation is meant to address the current and historical underrepresentation of Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color in conservation plans and projects. The report concludes with four next steps we feel are necessary for the revision of the Strategy and to ensure it will continue to be promoted and implemented throughout all sectors and jurisdictions.

While much has changed in our understanding of climate adaptation over the past decade, it is clear that the Strategy has provided a roadmap for scientists and managers to address the impacts of a changing climate to the Nation’s natural resources. To ensure that the Strategy remains a critical guiding document, the recommendations included in Part III outline what will be needed to meet this challenge. While this report represents the assessment of an informal network of practitioners, it is our hope that these recommendations from federal, state, tribal, and nonprofit partners promote robust discussion and increased action to implement the Strategy. Coordinated action is critical to addressing climate change impacts on the Nation’s valuable fish, wildlife, and plants and the many people, communities and economies that depend on them.

Affiliated Organizations

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.

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.

The U.S. Department of the Interior protects and manages the Nation's natural resources and cultural heritage; provides scientific and other information about those resources; and honors its trust responsibilities or special commitments to American Indians, Alaska Natives, and affiliated Island Communities. The Interior heads eight technical bureaus: Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, Minerals Management Service, National Park Service, Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and U.S.

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