Various Adaptation Efforts Are Under Way at Key Natural Resource Management Agencies

Created: 6/21/2013 -

Abstract

Since 2007, the Forest Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Park Service have taken steps to establish strategic directions for addressing climate change adaptation. For example, the Forest Service developed a strategic framework document that established climate change adaptation as a central agency priority and another document, known as "the roadmap," which identified actions that national forest managers were taking or could take to implement the direction outlined in the framework, including re-vegetating ecosystems that had been affected by fire with plant species that are better adapted to current and future climates. These four agencies have also developed guidance, training, and other tools for managers to use in adapting to climate change. For example, the National Park Service is developing guidance for park-based climate change adaptation plans that includes steps such as identifying conservation targets and conducting vulnerability assessments. The Bureau of Land Management has not established a strategic direction for addressing climate change impacts but is planning to develop a high-level climate change adaptation strategy by the end of the summer 2013. In addition, GAO visited one field location within each agency and found that managers at four of the five locations have taken steps to address climate change adaptation. For example:

  • Chugach National Forest managers have begun an assessment of the vulnerability to climate change of key resources to help set priorities and identify adaptation actions. For example, the vulnerability assessment will include information on how changes in climate are likely to affect snow cover and salmon populations, as well as an analysis of how these projected changes may affect residents in the region who rely on snow-based tourism and salmon for their livelihoods.
  • Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary managers are beginning to assess whether parts of their management plan should be revised to address climate change adaptation and have taken actions to protect marine resources, such as coral reefs, from climate change impacts. For example, the sanctuary is collaborating with local stakeholders to develop systems and techniques to grow coral and other reef species for replanting in depleted reef systems.

Managers at the Bureau of Land Management's Kingman Resource Area, which manages its lands for livestock grazing and other uses, have not taken steps to address climate change adaptation and are awaiting agency direction.

The federal natural resource management agencies GAO reviewed are collaborating on climate change adaptation. For example, agencies are collaborating through landscape conservation cooperatives, comprising public and private organizations working to define shared goals and provide science for conservation planning, among other things. In addition, agencies have collaborated in developing national strategies for addressing climate change adaptation in the federal government. For example, the Fish and Wildlife Service, NOAA, and others collaborated on a strategy, released in March 2013, for addressing climate change adaptation in managing fish, wildlife, and plants.

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Organization(s)

NOAA is an agency that enriches life through science. Our reach goes from the surface of the sun to the depths of the ocean floor as we work to keep citizens informed of the changing environment around them. From daily weather forecasts, severe storm warnings and climate monitoring to fisheries management, coastal restoration and supporting marine commerce, NOAA’s products and services support economic vitality and affect more than one-third of America’s gross domestic product.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service is a Federal agency that manages public lands in national forests and grasslands. The Forest Service is also the largest forestry research organization in the world, and provides technical and financial assistance to state and private forestry agencies. Gifford Pinchot, the first Chief of the Forest Service, summed up the purpose of the Forest Service—"to provide the greatest amount of good for the greatest amount of people in the long run."

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 BLM is responsible for managing the nation's public lands and resources in a combination of ways which best serve the needs of the American people. The BLM balances recreational, commercial, scientific and cultural interests and strives for long-term protection of renewable and nonrenewable resources, including range, timber, minerals, recreation, watershed, fish and wildlife, wilderness and natural, scenic, scientific and cultural values.

Since 1916, the American people have entrusted the National Park Service with the care of their national parks. With the help of volunteers and park partners, we are proud to safeguard these nearly 400 places and to share their stories with more than 275 million visitors every year. But our work doesn’t stop there.

Keywords

Target Climate Changes and Impacts
Air temperature
Flooding
Ocean acidification
Precipitation
Sea level rise
Storms or extreme weather events
Water temperature
Region
United States