A Roadmap for Resilience: New Strategy Is Serious About Climate Adaptation

Yesterday marked the release of the National Fish, Wildlife and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy, a ground-breaking plan for helping wildlife withstand and respond to the impacts of climate change. Defenders is proud to have helped ensure that this plan came about: Our efforts in 2008 to create and advance a wildlife adaptation bill through Congress included the creation of a national strategy as a top priority. Five years later, and after three years of collaboration among federal, state and tribal organizations, this strategy is a bold new step in the fight against climate change. This is exactly the kind of cooperation we need if we are to make progress on climate change in the United States.

The strategy lays out an urgent call to action, documenting the many different climate impacts America's wildlife and ecosystems are already experiencing today. Polar bears are losing the sea ice they need to hunt and raise their cubs. Waterfowl are flying south weeks later than they did only a decade ago. And oysters are dying from the increased acidity of salt water, an effect caused by the ocean's absorption of carbon dioxide from the air. It's clear: We are already facing a crisis and we need to address it now.

The strategy presents seven goals for climate change adaptation that face these problems head-on. These goals also mirror Defenders' own vision for protecting our natural resources and increasing climate change education and awareness. For example, it advocates increasing connectivity between habitats, which is vital to ensuring that wildlife can move to coexist with the climate they evolved with. It also calls for changing wildlife management practices to consider climate change in decision-making, using the best possible science. And it acknowledges that "broad support from the public and decision makers" is vital to the success of adaptation efforts, calling for initiatives to increase awareness of climate issues.

I'm proud and grateful to see that the Obama Administration has created a comprehensive plan for responding to these serious threats, and that it includes strong language that calls on all of us to take action. It's a wake-up call our policymakers need. Hand in hand with a serious plan for reducing carbon emissions, this strategy could make a real difference for our precious wildlife, plants and other natural resources. Defenders is excited to assist and engage in its implementation process and take the first steps towards strong, bold and desperately needed climate adaptation policy.