Categorized | Climate Change

Federal Task Force Affirms Need for National Wildlife Climate Adaptation Strategy

On October 14, 2010, the federal Interagency Climate Adaptation Task Force issued a report to the president which has the potential to radically shift how the federal government, and the country, responds to the impacts of climate change on our ecosystems.  The Task Force was comprised of over 20 different federal agencies and departments and spent over a year developing the report.  The report calls for integration of climate change adaptation planning across federal government programs; more coordinated science applied to decision-making; addressing cross-cutting issues including water resource management, public health, insurance programs, coastal areas, wildlife and habitat, and the protection of communities; better coordination and collaboration of responses to climate change; and enhanced efforts to lead and support international adaptation.

The report highlights impacts of climate change on our nation, and the need for adaptation to climate change in addition to reducing greenhouse gas pollution and calls for:

  • Developing a national fish, wildlife, and plant climate adaptation strategy.
  • Developing a national action plan to strengthen climate change adaptation for freshwater resources.
  • Developing a strategic action plan focused on strengthening the resilience of coastal, ocean, and Great Lakes communities and ecosystems to climate change.
  • Incorporating consideration of ecosystems resilience and services into ecosystem-based adaptation strategies.  For example, this principle would bias towards floodplain restoration as a response to increased flooding, as opposed to building higher levees.
  • Implementing adaptation planning within federal agencies, and incorporating climate change adaptation into existing programs.
  • Integrating science into decision making.

Defenders issued a joint press release with our partners upon the release of the plan.

Convincing the federal government to adopt ecosystem-based approaches to adaptation was a critical element in Defenders’ engagement with the Task Force.  If properly and forcefully implemented, this principle will greatly expand the capacity of the federal government, beyond the natural resource agencies, to assist ecosystems.  But this is also where the report falls flat.  There is no clear definition for what ecosystem-based approaches to adaptation means, and not clear direction for implementing this important principle.

One provision of the report with some clarity for implementation is for the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) to issue guidance for agency adaptation planning within 120 days of the Task Force Report.  What that guidance will say and what timelines and other requirements are put on the agencies is a big question mark.

Another critical element of Defenders’ engagement in the Task Force was highlighting the development of a national fish, wildlife, and plants climate adaptation strategy.  This strategy is already in its early stages, but including it in the interagency Task Force report elevates its importance, and hopefully increases the cooperation among federal agencies to develop and implement this national strategy.  How individual agency adaptation plans interact with the national wildlife adaptation strategy, as well as the national freshwater and coastal strategies called for in the report, is another big question mark.

Adaptation is already off to a start in many federal agencies.  Defenders recently completed a summary of some of these efforts, and the PEW Center on Climate Change also just released a report of the existing adaptation programs in federal agencies.

This post was written by:

- who has written 16 posts on dotWild.

Noah Matson is Defenders’ Vice President Landscape Conservation and Climate Adaptation. Noah directs Defenders’ efforts to create and implement policies and strategies to safeguard wildlife and habitat from the impacts of climate change. Noah also oversees Defenders’ programs to improve the management of wildlife and habitat on federal public lands including national forests, national wildlife refuges, and the National System of Public Lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

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dotWild is the blog of scientists and policy experts at Defenders of Wildlife, a national, nonprofit membership organization dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities.