Author Archives | Noah Matson

Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge

Strategically Growing the Refuge System

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently issued a draft “Strategic Growth Policy” for the National Wildlife Refuge System.  The draft policy is intended to guide how the Fish and Wildlife Service will add lands and new wildlife refuges to the refuge system.  This policy is sorely needed and long overdue. As the Service points out in the release of the draft policy, the complexities of modern conservation and its limited budgetary resources require the Service to be strategic in all facets of conservation, particularly when making long-term investments like land protection.

As I point out in my comments on the draft policy, climate change in particular requires the Service to reevaluate its approach to land protection policies.  The National Fish, Wildlife and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy, co-developed by the Service, states this new challenge well:

“Increasing the number, quality, and size of conservation areas can increase the opportunities for individual species to adapt to climate change, and also make it more likely that native biodiversity will be conserved. Some species’ habitat under climate change may be well outside their current or historic range. Healthy and biologically diverse ecosystems are likely to better withstand or adjust to the impacts of climate change. Increasing the number (redundancy) and distribution of protected fish, wildlife, and plant populations is important for the same reason. Establishing larger and more hospitable conservation areas for species to transition to will also increase opportunities for species to create new assemblages of species that are better able to persist in a dynamic climate.

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Image courtesy USFWS

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Image courtesy USFWS

Another challenge will be providing corridors between conservation areas so that species can freely move to new locations with suitable habitat. Protecting and restoring large blocks of habitat and using linkages and corridors to develop networks for movement will facilitate connectivity. Riparian corridors, such as floodplains, are useful as a conduit for migratory species and for providing access to water. In addition, appropriate transitory or “stopover” habitat for migratory species can promote biological connectivity between non-physically connected areas.”

The first goal of the Wildlife Adaptation Strategy emphasizes the need for identifying and conserving areas for an “ecologically-connected network” of public and private terrestrial, freshwater, coastal, and marine “conservation areas that are likely to be resilient to climate change and to support a broad range of species under changed conditions.”  In addition, the Wildlife Adaptation Strategy calls for the conservation and restoration of “ecological connections among conservation areas to facilitate fish, wildlife, and plant migration, range shifts, and other transitions caused by climate change.”  This goal was recently adopted by all the Landscape Conservation Cooperative Coordinators: “LCCs support the creation of an ecologically connected network of landscapes, as defined in the National Fish, Wildlife and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy.”  This should be the overarching goal of the Service’s Strategic Growth Policy, identifying the refuge system’s specific role in achieving this goal across the nation with partners.

The FWS derives its authority for developing this new policy from the 1997 National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act which directs the Secretary of the Interior (acting through the Fish and Wildlife Service Director) to “plan and direct the continued growth of the System in a manner that is best designed to accomplish the mission of the System, to contribute to the conservation of the ecosystems of the United States, to complement efforts of States and other Federal agencies to conserve fish and wildlife and their habitats, and to increase support for the System and participation from conservation partners and the public.”

The draft policy excluded the highlighted portions of this provision.  These mandates provide critical direction directly relevant to this policy, and should be incorporated and implemented in the final policy statement.  Importantly, this provision, in its entirety, provides the legislative authorization for the refuge system to support the ecologically-connected network of conservation areas identified in the Wildlife Adaptation Strategy.  In our view, this important provision of law guides the Service to assess the entire “conservation estate” (the existing mix of federal, state, tribal, local, and private conservation lands and waters) and build upon it, focusing on those ecosystems that are not sufficiently protected by our existing conservation network.

Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge. Image Courtesy of USFWS

Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge. Image Courtesy of USFWS

The draft policy incorporates many important modern landscape-level conservation planning elements into planning for new and expanded refuges.  The policy requires land acquisition planners to explicitly identify conservation targets, look to “national, Regional, State, Landscape Conservation Cooperative (LCC), or species-specific conservation, management, or recovery plans” for science-based management objectives and to help identify priority conservation areas.  The policy also requires projects to identify vulnerability and resiliency to climate change and other stressors and “describe how the Refuge System will mitigate stressors to ensure the project’s resiliency.”  Our comments focused on improving and strengthening the provisions pertaining to these important concepts to provide clarity to refuge land protection planners and ensure they are actually implemented and operationalized to make strategic conservation investments in the refuge system.

As the only federal land system that can administratively create new units, the refuge system has a unique role to play in conserving the nation’s wildlife and ecosystems in the face of climate change, rapid development, and other landscape stressors.  The final Strategic Growth Policy for the refuge system needs to ensure that refuges play this unique role in the most effective way possible.

Posted in Federal Policy, National Wildlife Refuges, Public Lands0 Comments

Integrating Climate Change into agency NEPA decisions

Integrating Climate Change into agency NEPA decisions

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) has recently been in the news as it relates to climate change, as reports surfaced that the administration is finalizing long-awaited NEPA climate change guidance (you can find the draft guidance here), outraging Senate Republicans who fear the guidance is an attempt to regulate greenhouse gases.

NEPA is exactly the right context for federal agencies to be analyzing how their proposed actions affect and are affected by climate change. Federal actions, both directly and indirectly, can and do lead to the release of greenhouse gases. In addition – and importantly, since this seems to be missing from most of the debate surrounding NEPA and climate change – federal actions and projects permitted by federal agencies can be greatly affected by climate change, and affect the surrounding environment in combination with climate change. These effects need to be understood to make sound decisions and investments of federal tax dollars.

Contrary to the fears of NEPA as a regulatory force, NEPA’s purpose is not to force and prevent a particular action or outcome. Rather, its purpose is to “insure that environmental information is available to public officials and citizens before decisions are made and before actions are taken” and “to help public officials make decisions that are based on understanding of environmental consequences, and take actions that protect, restore, and enhance the environment.” As a result of agencies taking a “hard look at the environmental consequences” of their proposed actions, they can develop appropriate alternatives and mitigation measures to reduce impacts on the environment. NEPA is a critical planning tool to improve agency decision making.

The Obama administration issued draft guidance to federal agencies in 2010 on “Consideration of the Effects of Climate Change and Greenhouse Gas Emissions” under NEPA. The draft guidance lacked clarity on accounting for emissions and for understanding climate change impacts on projects and the affected environment, and it excluded federal land management decisions from the guidance altogether – a glaring omission given how sensitive land management and related natural resources are to climate change impacts. It is the finalization of this guidance that is garnering recent attention.

To assist the administration in addressing these climate impacts in the implementation of NEPA, Defenders of Wildlife recently sent a letter to the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), which is the lead office in charge of NEPA. In our letter we recommend the final guidance address the following issues:

  • Purpose and Need: the purpose and need (See NEPA implementing regulations at 40 CFR §1502.13), which should be examined to determine if they are robust in a changing climate. For instance, a project designed to protect a coastal community from storm surge will not be responding to the right “need” if it only accounts for historic sea and surge levels.
  • Environmental assessments and Findings of No Significant Impacts: Determining “significance” is a critical component of NEPA analysis, and requires agencies to look at cumulative impacts. Guidance needs to be provided for understanding how to integrate climate change impacts into cumulative impacts analysis.
  • Analysis timeframe and geographic scope: The timeframe of analysis is relevant to how far into the future to analyze “reasonably foreseeable future actions” under Cumulative Impacts (§1508.7) and definition of “Significance,” which explicitly includes both long and short term effects (§1508.27). The analysis timeframe should be long enough to cover the period over which the project will potentially be affected by and interact with climate change effects. Similarly, the geographic scope of the analysis, as referred to under Affected Environment (§1502.45) and Context (§1508.27), should be large enough to account for potential range shifts in affected species and habitats, potential changes throughout an entire watershed, and similar landscape level effects that would affect the project and project impacts.
  • Alternatives: As part of the process of development of alternatives to the proposed action (§1502.14), the agency should consider whether climate change may impact the ability of each alternative to meet the purpose and need. This should include an assessment of the vulnerability of the various project alternatives to relevant climate change impacts. Where possible, agencies should incorporate into alternatives design elements that reduce the likelihood or severity of climate change impacts. Alternatives that fail to meet the purpose and need due to projected future climate change effects should be eliminated, and this should be noted in the discussion.
  • Affected Environment: As part of the EIS process, the agency discusses the Affected Environment (§1502.15), laying out which aspects of the natural environment (water, air, biodiversity, soils, aesthetics), built environment, human health, and sustainability of resources might be affected by the alternatives. As this section is the basis for comparisons of environmental consequences, it is critical that this section cover the full range of elements that could face effects, including cumulative effects from climate change. The agency should ensure that the environmental resources being considered includes the full suite of elements that could face effects from the project, and integrate climate change threats into the discussion of each element. Climate change is expected to worsen over time, and these changing effects on ecosystems should be incorporated into the Affected Environment and no action alternative sections of an EIS.
  • Environmental Consequences: At the heart of the analyses in an environmental impact statement is the Environmental Consequences section (§1502.16), which compares “The environmental effects of alternatives, including the proposed action” (§1502.16d) on various elements of the affected environment that were defined previously. Full incorporation of climate change into this analysis is warranted by the fact that the effects of climate change constitute a cumulative impact of “past, present, and reasonably foreseeable future actions” (§1508.7) that release greenhouse gases. We recommend that guidance should be provided that requires each EIS, in its analysis of the alternatives’ impacts on each aspect of the affected environment, include a discussion of the effects to that resource from climate change, and the extent to which the impacts of the alternative will be exacerbated by climate change impacts, and its interaction with other threats, stressors, and cumulative impacts.
  • Mitigation: Mitigation as defined by NEPA, includes actions to avoid impacts; minimize impacts; rectify impacts; reduce or eliminate impacts; and compensate for impacts (§1508.20). The draft guidance broadly states that both emissions reductions and adaptive responses are included here, but provides very little detail as to how to proceed:   “The agency should identity alternative actions that are both adapted to anticipated climate change impacts and mitigate the GHG emissions that cause climate change.” More guidance should be provided to agencies, particularly outlining steps agencies can take to reduce the combined effects of the proposed action and climate impacts on the affected environment.
  • Monitoring: An important aspect of successful mitigation is a monitoring strategy to ensure the effectiveness of mitigation measures (§1505.2c). We recommend that the guidance should be strengthened to stipulate that the monitoring plan should be implemented (not just considered), and should focus on indicators relevant to both the implementation of adaptation strategies and the effects of climate change and other threats. Monitoring is particularly critical where uncertainties regarding climate change impacts or interacting effects have been identified. This plan should articulate steps to ensure the effectiveness of mitigation strategies, and a means of identifying and addressing problems that are identified through monitoring.

Climate change is already impacting federal actions across the country and across agencies, not to mention wildlife and ecosystems. Integrating climate change analysis into federal agency NEPA analysis and decision making is one of the most important steps the federal government can take to account for its contribution to global warming, and importantly, to account for and mitigate the effects of climate change on agency actions and the environment. The administration needs to take the bold step of finalizing its guidance to agencies for accomplishing this. The sooner guidance is issued, the sooner the federal government can help the nation become better prepared to address climate impacts.

Posted in Climate Change, Federal Policy, NEPA, Public Lands0 Comments

A National Plan for Conserving Wildlife in a Changing World

Today the Obama administration released the National Fish, Wildlife and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy. This ground-breaking strategy is the first national-level plan for addressing climate impacts on wildlife and ecosystems, and the first national-level climate plan developed by multiple levels of government including input from federal, state, and tribal agencies and organizations. The Strategy has been a core part of Defenders’ climate adaptation policy platform and we have been heavily engaged throughout the process.

The Strategy is unique in its strong language describing the urgent need for working together to build resilience into our natural systems to better withstand the impacts of climate change – language so compelling I’m posting the preface here:

Our climate is changing, and these changes are already impacting the nation’s valuable natural resources and the people, communities, and economies that depend on them. These impacts are expected to increase with continued changes in the planet’s climate system, putting many of the nation’s valuable natural resources at risk. Action is needed now to reduce these impacts (including reducing the drivers of climate change) and help sustain the natural resources and services the nation depends on.

The observed changes in climate have been attributed to the increasing levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere, which have set in motion a series of changes in the planet’s climate system. Far greater changes are inevitable not only because emissions will continue, but also because CO2 stays in the atmosphere for a long time. Even if further GHG emissions were halted today, alterations already underway in the Earth’s climate will last for hundreds or thousands of years. If GHG emissions continue, as is currently more likely, the planet’s average temperature is projected to rise by 2.0 to 11.5 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century, with accompanying major changes in extreme weather events, variable and/or inconsistent weather patterns, sea level rise, and changing ocean conditions including increased acidification.

Safeguarding our valuable living resources in a changing climate for current and future generations is a serious and urgent problem. Addressing the problem requires action now to understand current impacts, assess future risks, and prepare for and adapt to a changing climate. This National Fish, Wildlife and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy (hereafter Strategy) is a call to action–a framework for effective steps that can be taken, or at least initiated, over the next five to ten years in the context of the changes to our climate that are already occurring, and those that are projected by the end of the century. It is designed to be a key part of the nation’s larger response to a changing climate, and to guide responsible actions by natural resource managers, conservation partners, and other decision makers at all levels. The Strategy was produced by federal, state, and tribal representatives and has been coordinated with a variety of other climate change adaptation efforts at national, state, and tribal levels.

The overarching goal of the Strategy is a simple one: to inspire, enable, and increase meaningful action that helps safeguard the nation’s natural resources in a changing climate. Admittedly, the task ahead is a daunting one, especially if the world fails to make serious efforts to reduce emissions of GHGs. But we can make a difference. To do that, we must begin now to prepare for a future unlike the recent past.

I couldn’t agree more. And beginning now means establishing a clear plan and governance structure to ensure the Strategy is actually implemented. The biggest strength of the Strategy is that it brought together 23 federal, state, and tribal partners onto the steering committee and involved many others. That is also its greatest weakness. The final Strategy does not prescribe any particular action to any particular actor – it couldn’t; no partner had the authority to tell another what to do. But that leaves accountability for the achievement of the Strategy’s goals very tenuous. Two core solutions to ensure the Strategy doesn’t sit on a shelf (or in a hard drive) are to create a similar governing body as the one established to develop the plan, and require annual reporting of progress made implementing the plan.

Posted in Climate Change0 Comments

Hurricane Sandy- Adapting to Climate Reality, Recovering Stronger

When Superstorm Sandy swept ashore in late October, it left an almost unimaginable level of damage: thousands of residents still displaced, entire communities destroyed, and an economic toll that promises to make Sandy one of the costliest natural disasters in history. But it also swept away our illusions that we can carry on with business as usual in a changing climate.

Sandy exposed incredible vulnerabilities to coastal storms and floods in the region. While the storm was unprecedented, the effects of climate change, namely higher sea levels and larger storms, mean that we can no longer operate as if a recurrence is only a remote possibility.  It’s clear that we cannot simply rebuild; we must also rethink the way we approach recovery efforts, and begin to prepare for future extreme weather events and sea level rise by rebuilding in a way that reduces vulnerabilities to future damage.

Defenders of Wildlife has argued that in many cases, this will require restoring and enhancing natural ecosystems that provide flood control and storm surge attenuation while providing other benefits including clean water, wildlife habitat, and economic and recreational opportunities.  Our publication “Harnessing Nature,” published earlier this year, describes several of these projects and the benefits they can provide.

After a disaster of Sandy’s magnitude, the need for federal assistance to help the region recover could not be more apparent and urgent.  The Obama administration submitted an emergency supplemental request to Congress to address response and recovery that takes this exact approach.  The Senate followed suit and included provisions that ensure recovery efforts mitigate future disaster risks.

The Senate emergency supplemental appropriations bill shows tremendous foresight in its recognition of the role that natural floodplains, coastal wetlands, dunes, natural shorelines and other ecosystem-based measures can play in protecting communities from weather-related disasters.  Defenders of Wildlife specifically support the following elements of the supplemental:

  • Restores national wildlife refuges: The bill provides $78 million for repairs and restoration at affected national wildlife refuges. Thirty-five refuges were closed following the storm and some remain closed. The overall damage to refuges was $78 million – the equivalent of 16% of the System’s overall annual budget – but it would have been much worse had it not been for the natural protection provided by refuge wetlands and dunes.
  • Funds projects to increase the resilience of coastal habitat and assist state and tribal natural resource restoration programs: Through Department of the Interior programs, the bill provides $150 million to “increase the resiliency and capacity of coastal habitat and infrastructure to withstand future storms and reduce the amount of damage caused by such storms; protect natural and cultural values; and assist State, tribal and local governments.” The Department includes many programs that it can deploy to accomplish this important goal through the Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, the U.S. Geological Survey and other programs.  
  • Funds coastal and estuarine habitat restoration and protection to help buffer communities from storms and recover fisheries- and coastal habitat-based economies: The bill provides $150 million to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) “to evaluate, stabilize and restore coastal ecosystems affected by Hurricane Sandy.” NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service Office of Habitat Conservation has a long track record of success restoring coastal and marine habitat and fisheries, including many large-scale collaborative restoration projects including the Chesapeake Bay and the Great Lakes.  The bill also provides $47 million for the Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program (CELCP) to “support State and local restoration in areas affected by Hurricane Sandy.”  CELCP provides states and local governments matching funds to purchase (fee title or easements) significant coastal and estuarine lands.  This protection ensures important natural areas continue to provide flood and storm protection benefits to communities in addition to their other ecological, recreational, and economic values.
  • Restores and protects storm-abating wetlands on private lands: The bill provides $125 million to the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Emergency Watershed Protection Program.  This program provides funding to remove debris from stream channels, stabilize stream banks and restore damaged uplands stripped of protective vegetative cover.  The program also funds floodplain easements for “restoring, protecting, maintaining, and enhancing the functions and values of floodplains, including associated wetlands and riparian areas… These easements also help conserve fish and wildlife habitat, water quality, flood water retention, and ground water recharge, as well as safeguard lives and property from floods, drought, and erosion.”
  • Funds planning for and construction of flood-reducing projects that support the long-term sustainability of coastal ecosystems: The bill provides $2.9 billion to the Army Corps of Engineers to “reduce future flood risk in ways that will support the long-term sustainability of the coastal ecosystem and communities and reduce the economic costs and risks associated with large-scale flood and storm events in areas…affected by Hurricane Sandy.”  In addition, the bill requires that “efforts using these funds shall incorporate current science and engineering standards in constructing previously authorized Corps projects designed to reduce flood and storm damage risks and modifying existing Corps projects that do not meet these standards, with such modifications as the Secretary determines are necessary to incorporate these standards or to meet the goal of providing sustainable reduction to flooding and storm damage risks.” This important provision requires the Army Corps to reevaluate previously authorized projects in light of Hurricane Sandy and other recent extreme weather events, as well as current scientific projections of future climate-related risks, to ensure projects remain viable and sustainable under changing conditions.  The bill also provides up to $20 million to the Army Corps to support interagency planning with State, local, and Tribal officials “to address the flood risks of vulnerable coastal populations, including innovative approaches to promote the long-term sustainability of the coastal ecosystems and communities to reduce the economic costs and risks associated with large-scale flood and storm events.”
  • Requires federal agencies to plan for future risks of increased extreme weather events and sea level rise in all recovery efforts: General provisions that apply to the whole bill require agencies to be forward thinking to assess future changes in risks and vulnerabilities of recovery projects to extreme weather events, sea level rise, and coastal flooding.  Agencies shall “inform plans for response, recovery, and rebuilding to reduce vulnerabilities from and build long-term resiliency to future extreme weather events, sea level rise, and coastal flooding. In carrying out activities funded by this title that involve repairing, rebuilding, or restoring infrastructure and restoring land, project sponsors shall consider, where appropriate, the increased risks and vulnerabilities associated with future extreme weather events, sea level rise and coastal flooding.”  The bill also encourages the development of better information to base these decisions on, allowing funds to be available “to develop… regional projections and assessments of future risks and vulnerabilities to extreme weather events, sea level rise and coastal flooding that may be used for the planning…, and to encourage coordination and facilitate long-term community resiliency.


However, the following provisions limit environmental review and public participation, which may lead to poor planning and communities more vulnerable to disaster risks and other concerns. Some even lift environmental review nationwide. We strongly oppose the following elements of the supplemental:

  • Authorizes all pending Army Corps flood protection projects nationwide regardless of urgency, need, or status of environmental and other reviews: The bill authorizes any Army Corps flood protection project that is under study (i.e. any project throughout the nation that was begun before Hurricane Sandy) provided that the Corps demonstrates the project is cost-effective.  Notwithstanding the important provisions on using current science and planning for future risks that also apply to this funding; this provision approves any projects currently under study with the Corps.  Moreover this provision will apply nationwide, authorizing a bevy of projects notwithstanding their compliance with the Water Resources Development Act, Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act or the National Environmental Policy Act. Many of these projects involve large commitments of funding and infrastructure that could have significant impacts to waterways, wetlands, habitat and wildlife. Proper evaluation of impacts to the environment and endangered and threatened species is necessary to prevent unintended environmental consequences. This blanket authorization is damaging and unnecessary and should be revised.
  • Unnecessarily creates new “streamlining” authorities: The bill authorizes the President to establish “streamlined” procedures to expedite providing disaster assistance.  The Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act and the National Environmental Policy Act already include emergency provisions that allow for expedited reviews and changes in procedures to protect human health and safety in response to disasters and emergencies. In fact, provisions of these laws were used successfully during the recent BP Gulf oil spill and Hurricane Katrina. In addition to being simply unnecessary, these streamlining provisions are problematic, first in their lack of specificity in what exactly they authorize, and secondly in creating a deeply concerning precedent for circumventing our nation’s most important environmental and other public interest laws. These sections should be stricken.

This essential funding will provide much needed relief to victims of the devastating hurricane.  By retaining the forward-thinking provisions we highlight, and by striking the provisions waiving public interest requirements, the bill will not just help recover the region from this horrible storm, but will also reduce the region’s vulnerabilities to future extreme events, sea level rise and coastal flooding and the economic costs associated with these issues. 

Posted in Climate Change3 Comments

sunset refuge

National Wildlife Refuges and Sea-Level Rise

The Refuge System is losing ground. Literally. There are over 160 coastal national wildlife refuges, and virtually all of them are experiencing the impacts of sea level rise and coastal storms exacerbated by climate change. Refuges need a system-wide response.

Defenders recently published a new report, National Wildlife Refuges and Sea-Level Rise: Lessons from the Frontlines, based on insights from a national perspective as well as on the ground at Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina and Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia. The report includes recommendations for national policy, on the ground habitat management, and for dealing with local communities, many of which are resistant to the management changes necessary to cope with the rising seas. These recommendations include:

To respond to it effectively, refuge managers must:

• Take a landscape-scale approach to conservation throughout the refuge system.

• Share information throughout the refuge system to avoid ‘re-inventing the wheel’ in responding to climate change.

• Receive policy guidance and support from FWS for coordinated climate change responses throughout the refuge system.

With sufficient financial support and manpower, coastal refuges can take steps to help mitigate the impacts of sea-level rise and buy time for species and habitats to adapt to the impacts of climate change. Steps that show promise include:

• Plant salt-tolerant species to minimize the impacts of saltwater intrusion.

• Restore altered hydrology to reduce salt-water intrusion and to regain natural marsh-building processes.

• Restore shoreline reefs to minimize climate-change-mediated coastal erosion.

• Work with partners and the public to develop long-term conservation plans for the next century and beyond.

 

A large and growing percentage of the American public is skeptical or confused about climate change. To build understanding and support for climate-change-related work at refuges, managers and staff must engage and convince the people who live near refuges. To do this, refuge managers need support and guidance from FWS to:

• Find and present tangible examples the local community can relate to of sea-level-rise impacts that have already occurred.

• Use modeling tools such as SLAMM to provide dramatic, easy-to-grasp visuals of what the landscape will look like in the future.

• Engage in an open community dialog to find out what’s important to locals and to explore alternatives for reaching their goals.

Only by taking a broad, new perspective to finding creative solutions for addressing climate change-related problems and to educating and involving local communities and partners can FWS meet its conservation mission and preserve our refuges, the network of special places where the needs of wildlife come first.

Posted in Climate Change0 Comments

LCC Chart

Landscape Conservation Cooperatives: Where the funding has gone

 The establishment of Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCCs) is an initiative of the Department of the Interior to better coordinate, collaborate, and build capacity for landscape-scale conservation.  The initiative was launched in response to climate change and other large-scale environmental challenges that cross jurisdictional boundaries, requiring collaborative solutions. Part partnership development, part funding stream for science and technical capacity, there are now LCCs that cover the entire United States and U.S. Territories. Secretary Salazar’s Secretarial Order (No.3289) which ordered the formation of LCCs and CSCs states that: “The conservation community must establish increasingly effective and coordinated mechanisms for science development, the sharing and transfer of science and related information, and the creation of innovative and effective science-based conservation tools, all predicated upon on collaboratively developed priorities.”

In order to better understand what types of projects Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCCs) are funding, Defenders broke them down into 5 possible categories: Modeling Impacts, Conservation Planning, On the Ground Monitoring, Data/Information Sharing, Development Collaboration Platforms, and other.  These categories were derived after looking into the kinds of projects the Department of Interior appeared to have intended LCCs to fund and from looking at a sampling of projects LCCs were currently funding. 

When examining the current funding trends of LCCs, we found that in the past two years of funding, most LCCs have dedicate at least half of their funding towards modeling impact projects. As LCCs mature and fill-in critical information and capacity gaps, they need to increase their attention to landscape-level conservation planning. Collaborative planning at the landscape scale and agreeing on shared conservation priorities is the only way we are going to be able to conserve wildlife and ecosystems in the face of a rapidly changing earth.

 

Categories of Funding

Modeling Impact Projects are those which evaluated historical and predicted data in order to demonstrate clear impacts of climate change and other ecological stressors.  These types of projects include: vulnerability assessments, sea-level rise modeling, risk-mapping, and future distribution mapping. An example of a modeling impacts project from the California LCC is: “Sea-level Rise Modeling Across the California Salt Marsh Gradient for Resource Managers”.

Conservation Planning Projects are those which develop strategies and planning guidelines which respond to climate stressors.  They incorporate the climate science provided by Climate Science Centers (CSCs) and other partners into decision-making tools.  A strong example of a conservation planning project from the California LCC is: “Integrating Science into Decisions: Climate Change/Land Use Change Scenarios and Outreach for Habitat Threat Assessments on California Rangelands.”

On the Ground Monitoring Projects are those which fund studies collecting actual data in the field.  These projects are generally aquatic or avian monitoring or other forms of data collection.  An example of an on the ground project from the Great Northern LCC is: “Establishing aquatic monitoring programs for large-scale Restoration projects: Building understanding for watershed conservation in the face of climate change”

Data/ Information Sharing Projects are those that attempt to combine and make more available the variety of climate change data and information relating to climate change and other natural stressors.  These projects help bring data together across regional, state, and LCC lines so that studies are not repeated and studies can move more quickly.  An example of a data sharing project from the Arctic LCC is: “Fostering Collaboration Across the North America’s Arctic”

Other Projects include those which do not fit into any of the categories and most often are found to be those examining climate change’s effect on cultural resources.

 

Posted in Climate Change0 Comments

Agency Policy Table

Federal Agencies Commit to Preparing for Climate Impacts

Coauthored by Aimee Delach

Big changes are afoot in the federal government when it comes to preparing agencies for the impacts of climate change.  As we highlighted previously the administration established a Climate Change Adaptation Task Force to coordinate Federal agency efforts to plan for and address the myriad ways that climate change will impact their lands and infrastructure and their ability to deliver programs and fulfill their missions.     

In April, 2011, the administration released Instructions for Implementing Climate Change Adaptation Planning (pdf) and supporting documentation (pdf).   By June 3, 2011, all agencies were to have issued national policy statements committing to analyzing the risks of climate change and preparing adaptive actions. 

As of this writing (June 21), 21 agencies have released their adaptation policies publicly. How well did the agencies stack up to the administration’s directives?  We ranked them according to the criteria (described below) laid out in the Instructions and Support Document.

Agency Policy Table

agency adaptation policy table

Of the plans out so far, the Commerce Department was the clear leader, hitting every element required in the policy. The Environmental Protection Agency and Agriculture Departments weren’t far behind. Fittingly, each of these agencies already has strong history of engaging in the science, impacts and policies connected with climate change. For other agencies, the question of how to adapt to a changing climate in order to continue to fulfill their missions is clearly new territory. Thus, the Farm Credit Administration openly acknowledged in their policy that they will need to leverage the resources and expertise of others. Similarly, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, for whom climate change issues are likely an even more remote consideration, issued a very brief statement that nonetheless gets points for willingness to take on the problem, as well as for beating a number of members of the Task Force at making their policy statement public. The State Department’s plan, while missing a number of the directives that were laid out, demonstrated its commitment to work across agencies and multilaterally, bringing its own unique capacities to international adaptation efforts. The Department of Health and Human Services’ plan expressed an understanding of ways climate impacts will exacerbate health problems among already-vulnerable populations. The Department of Labor is particularly concerned about hurricane and other weather-related impacts to Job Centers and other infrastructure, and the Department of Energy emphasized adaptation as a complement to its work furthering clean energy technologies.

The Department of the Interior gets credit for being an early adopter of adaptation.  In the fall of 2009, Secretary Salazar issued a secretarial order that made responding to climate change a priority.  However, Interior’s “Action Memorandum” on climate adaptation issued in response to the CEQ guidance falls short on being agency-specific, fostering collaboration outside of the department, and including strong language on analyzing the effects of climate change and on implementing adaptation actions.

As of this writing, we are still awaiting release of adaptation policy statements from most federal agencies, including the following members of the Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force:

Department of Defense

Department of Homeland Security

Department of Housing and Urban Development

Department of Treasury

Agency for International Development (USAID)

National Intelligence Council (NIC)

Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC)

Next Steps:

These policy statements are only the first step in a year-long process that each agency has been directed to undertake. While issuance of a policy is important, and we urge all those departments who have not yet made theirs public to do so, the policies are only useful if they are acted upon. We will be watching carefully to see if agencies continue to follow through with the next steps of the process: 1) Completing a preliminary agency vulnerability analysis and outlining five priority adaptation actions by September 30;  2) Completing a final, detailed vulnerability analysis by next March; and 3) Issuing their final adaptation plan by June 2012.

It is also critical that these future steps take place at the level of the individual agency, not the entire department, since the missions, resources, and vulnerabilities differ so widely from agency to agency, even within a single department.

Explanation of Evaluation Criteria:

1) Agency-level plan: Policy statement is at agency level rather than Department level, or very clearly directs individual agencies within Department to develop adaptation plans. (Implementing instructions, I.A)

2) 2012 due date: Policy commits the agency to complete an agency-wide adaptation plan by June, 2012.

3) Compliance with Implementing Instructions: Policy commits the agency to fully implementing and complying with CEQ Adaptation Implementing Instructions in general and coordinating with the Interagency Climate Adaptation Task Force.

4) Strong purpose and vision: Policy states the purpose of the policy, including both the agency’s vision for successful adaptation planning and initial adaptation goals as well as recognition that climate change adaptation is a critical complement to climate change mitigation and that both are required to address the causes and consequences of climate change. (Implementing instructions I.A.2a)

5) ICCATF  Principles & Framework: Policy adopts the Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force’s guiding principles and framework for adaptation planning either directly or by reference (Implementing Instructions I.A.2b).

6) Coordination within agency programs: Policy describes how the agency will coordinate adaptation planning across programs and operations within the agency. (Implementing Instructions I.A.2c, part 1)

7) Coordination with other agencies: Policy describes how the agency will coordinate adaptation planning with other agencies on climate change adaptation matters of common interest. (Implementing Instructions I.A.2c, part 2)

8 ) Identifies resources within agency: Policy identifies programs and resources within the agency to support the climate change adaptation planning process. (Implementing Instructions I.A.2d)

9) Strong analysis language: Policy requires (using “will”, “shall”, or “must” language) the agency to analyze how climate change may impact its ability to achieve its mission, policy, program, and operation objectives by reviewing existing programs, operations, policies, and authorities. (Support Document)

10) Strong implementation language: Policy describes the agency process to ensure effective adaptation planning implementation (using “will”, “shall”, or “must” type language). (Support Document)

Posted in Climate Change0 Comments

House votes to block helping farmers prepare for more droughts, floods, and pests

Coauthored by Aimee Delach

In a disturbing trend of attacking the government’s ability to prepare for climate risks, the House passed an amendment to the fiscal 2012 Agriculture spending bill that would prohibit the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) from implementing its new departmental regulation on climate change adaptation.  This amendment puts the nation at increased risk of food disruptions, forest fires, and huge economic losses.

Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), who introduced the amendment, bizarrely claimed USDA’s climate adaptation policy was somehow a “backdoor door attempt to put a cap-and-trade program in place in the Department of Agriculture.”

Far from it.  The commonsense 2-page USDA policy (pdf) says only that agencies should plan for that future in a way that will prevent food disruptions, massive forest fires and economic hardships.  It reads, “Through adaptation planning, USDA will develop, prioritize, implement and evaluate actions to minimize climate risks and exploit new opportunities that climate change will bring.”

Tying the USDA’s hand with respect to preparing for climate change seems like a particularly bad idea while the nation is immersed in intense weather and climate-related disasters that are impacting agriculture and forestry– from the Mississippi River flood, to the Texas drought, to the Arizona fire.

According to Texan Matt Farmer:

“It’s as dry as I’ve ever seen it in my lifetime,” said Farmer, 51, a plainspoken Texan not given to hyperbole. “I don’t remember a drought this widespread. I’ve got a lot of country that’s blowing, but I can’t do a thing about it.”

And the irony of Congressman Scalise’s amendment is that he is from Louisiana, which is not only bearing the brunt of much of the record Mississippi River flooding, but is simultaneously under a state-wide severe drought. Some farmers are getting hit with both extremes at once:

“I can’t get my crop out of one side of the levee because it’s too dry and I’ve lost my crop on the other side of the levee because it’s floating away,” said George Lacour, 48, of Morganza, [Louisiana] another farmer trying to juggle the seeming paradox.

The conditions we are seeing this year are breaking records around the country.  While La Niña is probably partly to blame, this year’s events are also consistent with the conditions researchers project are coming with climate change.  Looking at the past record would not have prepared anyone for the events this year – and the future is going to be different yet.

USDA’s climate change adaptation policy would have required agencies to plan for future changes in climate variability and extreme events on USDA programs to prepare for and adjust to anticipated changes.  The regulation is designed to ensure that “taxpayer resources are invested wisely and that USDA services and operations remain effective in current and future climate conditions.” 

The USDA itself is well aware of the challenges climate change will pose for its mission. They lay the problem out quite clearly in their 2010 Climate Change Science Plan:

As the climate changes, those responsible for managing land and water resources will need new information to help with their decision-making. For example, producers will need information to guide them on what to plant, when to plant, and what management strategies to employ during the growing season. Foresters, farmers, and ranchers will need information for management of risks posed by pests and fire. Water resource managers will need information for allocation of water resources between the demands of urban and rural populations, industry, biofuels, agriculture, and ecosystem services. USDA policymakers will need information to guide them in implementing or retooling programs impacting or impacted by climate change. At all levels, global food production data and projections will be necessary for anticipating large-scale socioeconomic feedbacks into U.S. production systems.

Here are some examples of the agencies in USDA and how they are responding to climate change and variability.

Agricultural Research Service (ARS) is USDA’s principal in-house research agency. ARS has a wide-ranging research program, including:

These and other research questions are vitally important for the maintenance of crop, livestock and human health under a changing climate.

Farm Service Agency (FSA) As the manager of disaster assistance and other commodity programs, FSA is on the front lines of the impact of weather and climate on our nation’s agricultural producers.  Just last month, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal wrote to the USDA to seek Secretarial disaster declarations for 26 parishes, on the grounds that “Agricultural producers in the basin will face significant damage and loss to cropland and livestock as a result” of record flooding that forced the opening of the Morganza spillway.

Louisiana Rep. Salise’s amendment would prevent FSW from properly fulfilling its mission as administrator of these disaster programs if it can’t take climate change into account. The separate but related Risk Management Agency, which makes disaster declarations and determines insured cropland eligibility in disaster situations also needs the capabilities to anticipate and respond to climate change and variability.

Forest Service (FS) administers 193 million acres of forests and grasslands that belong to all Americans and also provides research and technical assistance to all forest landowners. In order to protect forest resources, species and ecosystems, and human life and property on and adjacent to forest lands, the Forest Service needs to be able to evaluate, prepare for and respond to climate change impacts on fire frequency and severity, invasive species, forest pests, and other ecosystem dynamics.

Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) NRCS provides leadership in a partnership effort to help people conserve, maintain and improve our natural resources and environment.

NRCS conservation programs assist producers and rural communities to reduce erosion, use water resources more efficiently, protect and enhance wildlife habitat, and more. These conservation investments will produce better results if they are done in a climate-smart fashion.

Don’t we want our government agencies to doing this important work to prepare for the changes ahead? 

In a statement issued in response the amendment, Jamie Rappaport Clark, executive vice president for Defenders of Wildlife, said, “America’s farms, forests and ranchlands not only feed our country, but also help support abundant and diverse wildlife populations. Our food security, property and wildlife heritage are all at risk from increased frequency and severity of heat waves, droughts, floods, fires and pests.

“Rep. Scalise and the 237 other members of the House are inhibiting the USDA’s ability to help farmers and forest owners and managers prepare for a future that includes more of the extreme weather events we have just experienced this spring. The future is not going to be the same as the past. This commonsense USDA policy says let’s plan for that future in a way that will prevent food disruptions, massive forest fires and economic hardships.”

The Senate should do right by the country’s farmers, forests and the people and wildlife that rely on them, and reject this amendment.

Posted in Agriculture, Climate Change1 Comment

Restored Marsh

Why We Need a Broad-scale Approach to Adaptation

 

Restored Marsh

Restored Marsh: Area inside stakes used to be open water. Photo: Noah Matson

Two years ago I had the opportunity to visit Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge on the Eastern Shore of Maryland with a few other Defenders colleagues.  The refuge, at over 27,000 acres, is one of the largest protected areas in the state, and is famous among birders and local residents for its large concentrations of migrating waterfowl and shorebirds, bald eagles, and is also home to the endangered Delmarva fox squirrel.  Since the 1930’s, however, Blackwater has lost over 8,000 acres of marsh from a combination of sea level rise, subsidence, and the impact of invasive nutria that eat marsh grass and contribute to erosion.

We met with refuge staff who took us out on the refuge in airboats to see first-hand the marsh, the marsh loss, and the marsh restoration the refuge had implemented.  The refuge had experimented with using a dredger to spray mud onto former marsh to raise the marsh bed, followed by planting marsh grasses to stabilize the soil.   Through these projects the refuge has restored 20 acres of marsh, and that marsh has remains today, over a decade after the restoration was completed.  A success story.

But the refuge continues to lose 300 acres/year.

So with that restoration success story in mind, the refuge staff have an audacious proposal: barge or pipe mud and soil from the dredging of the Baltimore harbor approach channel in the Chesapeake Bay to the refuge to repeat the marsh restoration on thousands of acres, a cost of over a billion dollars.

Two hundred miles south from Blackwater lies the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, also a low-lying coastal refuge facing the impacts of sea level rise.  Alligator River is mostly made up of “pocosin”, a type of forested wetland found in the coastal plain of eastern North Carolina.  The refuge, along with surrounding refuges, is home to the only wild population of endangered red wolves in the world.  There, refuge staff, the Nature Conservancy and other partners are implementing adaptation measures to slow coastal erosion and salt water intrusion to protect the refuge’s forests and marshes.  Most projections of sea level rise put a large portion of the refuge under water in the next 50 years.

If I was the refuge manager for Blackwater, Alligator River, or any of the over 160 coastal national wildlife refuges in the country, I would probably be thinking about similar adaptation strategies to stem the impacts of sea level rise on the place I was sworn to protect.  But the impacts of climate change force a different focus, and a different scale of thinking.  As stewards of protected areas and wildlife populations, we have to ask – why does it matter if Blackwater or Alligator River goes under water?  What are our conservation goals and how are they affected by the impacts of climate change and where, given those impacts, should we target scare conservation dollars?

For Blackwater, which was established primarily for migratory birds, the real question is how will sea level rise impact migratory bird habitat throughout the Chesapeake Bay, not only at Blackwater.  It may be cheaper to restore or create new habitat elsewhere in the Bay, for instance closer to the available dredge material from the Baltimore Harbor approach channel.  These are questions an individual refuge manager cannot answer alone.

For Alligator River, while important for migratory birds, its critical importance to biodiversity conservation is providing habitat for endangered red wolves.  The loss of over half the refuge in the coming decades will have a significant impact on the red wolf population.  So the question for managers is will we have a viable population of red wolves with this loss of habitat?  Regardless of the answer to that question, the recovery plan for the red wolf calls for the establishment of three populations, and with the impending impacts of sea level rise on the only existing population, there should be renewed emphasis on establishing the two additional populations.  Again, these are decisions an individual refuge manager cannot make alone.

Wildlife and natural resources climate change adaptation forces us to take a broad-scale view.  Before zeroing in on the impacts of climate change on a particular place, we need new mechanisms and institutions to help policy makers, managers, and scientists work together to understand how wildlife and habitats will respond to the impacts of climate change regionally and across jurisdictional boundaries.

The Obama administration has launched a number of initiatives that hold some promise for achieving this goal.  The Interior Department is establishing Landscape Conservation Cooperatives, or LCCs, to bring partners together to better understand landscape-scale resources and challenges like climate change.  LCCs have been hampered, however, by competing agency missions and confusion over the LCCs’ unique role compared to other programs.  The administration is also crafting a National Fish, Wildlife, and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy.  The National Strategy is an opportunity to call for broad-scale assessments and planning for adaptation to assist local managers in making strategic adaptation decisions.

Protecting Blackwater, Alligator River, and all of our refuges from the impacts of climate change is important.  But we should do so in the context of addressing the much bigger task before us, figuring out how to make entire systems of wildlife and habitat resilient to climate change.

Posted in Climate Change, Imperiled Wildlife, National Wildlife Refuges0 Comments

Review: Redesigning biodiversity conservation projects for climate change

This post is the first in an occasional series of reviews of peer reviewed journal articles, government and non-governmental reports, and books on climate change with applications for wildlife and ecosystem adaptation and conservation.

In their paper, “Redesigning biodiversity conservation projects for climate change: examples from the field,” authors Karen Poiani et al. make important contributions to the field of applied biodiversity climate change adaptation.  The authors describe a process The Nature Conservancy used to identify climate change impacts and to develop adaptation strategies for 20 of TNCs project areas from around the world.

In addition to the description of useable methods for other practitioners to employ to develop adaptation strategies for their projects, the two major insights of the paper are: virtually all conservation projects will need to be adjusted in light of climate change, and in the future, more thought will need to be given to “transformative” actions that look beyond the current conservation targets to facilitate future ecosystem change.

Based on their analysis of climate change impacts, the project teams developed 42 adaptation strategies. The authors classified these strategies two ways.  First, they grouped strategies based on whether they were new strategies to the project area, adjustments to existing strategies, or whether no change in existing strategies was contemplated.  It is extremely telling that of the 42 adaptation strategies developed, only two were existing, unchanged conservation strategies.  As aptly stated by the authors,

“These findings provide strong evidence that considerations of climate change motivate substantive changes in conservation strategies.  They also suggest that conservation projects that ignore climate change could be compromised because they are not appropriately tailored to their potential future situation.”

Making conservation projects and programs climate-smart needs to become standard practice.

The authors also classified the adaptation strategies developed by broad adaptation categories: resistance strategies, resilience strategies, and transformation strategies.  These types of strategies are now commonly found in the adaptation literature.  Resistance refers to strategies that seek to maintain current conservation targets by resisting or compensating for climate-induced changes.  Resilience strategies seek to enhance the ability of the ecosystem or conservation target to rebound from disturbance.  Transformative, or facilitation, strategies are those that attempt to assist systems shift to a new state, or that are designed to protect a future state.

For example, in a coastal marsh system, a resistance strategy would be laying wave barriers to reduce wave-induced erosion, resilience strategies could include restoring degraded hydrology to allow for natural marsh-building process to keep pace with sea level rise, and transformative strategies would be facilitating the inland migration of marshes through land acquisition and habitat interventions.

Of the 42 adaptation strategies developed, 22 were resistance strategies, 18 were resilience, and only 2 were transformation strategies.  As the authors point out: “the predominance of resistance strategies contrasts with the literature about climate change and biodiversity management in which resilience strategies were recommended more than twice as often as resistance strategies.  One possible explanation for this difference is the inherent tendency of conservationists to try to keep things as they are, such that resistance strategies may be preferred whenever possible.”

The paper concludes, “we hypothesize that climate adaptation in reality may require a greater preponderance of transformative strategies, and that scientists and institutions should accelerate exploring such approaches to define and develop the next generation of conservation strategies.”

Or, in the words of Star Trek’s Borg, “resistance is futile.”  Adapting to climate change is not only going to necessitate scientific and technical fixes to our conservation problems – it is going to require the conservation community to change culturally, to change what we value, and to change what our end goals are.

The paper reflects a willingness to do so.  Altering what your goals are is hard, especially when you have been working for years to achieve them.  Yet 60% of the projects did make adjustments to their conservation targets, or their end goals in response to climate change.

An example I often raise to demonstrate the need to adjust conservation goals in response to climate change is the Silvio O. Conte National Wildlife Refuge.  Silvio Conte is a unique refuge charged with facilitating the restoration of the entire Connecticut River watershed, not only through land acquisition, but also by being a catalytic force for conservation by other partners.  One of its establishing purposes is the restoration of Atlantic salmon, which was extirpated from the river in the 1800s.  Connecticut is the southern end of Atlantic Salmon’s historic range.  Existing runs of salmon in Maine are arriving two weeks earlier than they did historically due to climate change.  Climate models suggest that Maine may have trouble holding on to habitat conditions for viable populations of salmon in the future.  In other words, the conditions in the Connecticut River will very likely not support salmon in the future.  The refuge should evaluate changing this conservation target.

Evaluating conservation goals is the first step in preparing for climate change and practicing climate-smart conservation.

Posted in Climate Change0 Comments

Conservation in the Information Age Table

Conservation in the Information Age

Data.  We live in the information age.  Information is power.  Information and data can help us see problems and solve problems.

Just three days after his inauguration, President Obama issued a memorandum on open government and transparency.

“My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government.  We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.”

In May, 2009, Federal Chief Information Officer, Vivek Kundra, launched Data.gov “to improve access to Federal data and expand creative use of those data beyond the walls of government by encouraging innovative ideas (e.g., web applications). Data.gov strives to make government more transparent and is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government. The openness derived from Data.gov will strengthen our Nation’s democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.”

Data.gov is a surprisingly innovative and modern initiative by the federal government, and invites independent developers to develop “apps” for viewing and processing data, and invites the public to comment on, visualize and participate in an online community around the datasets and what they reveal. Data.gov launched with only 47 datasets and today boasts over 300,000.

But if you are looking for data and information to democratize federal natural resources agencies and help the public understand and solve our pressing conservation problems, well, look again.  Here are the number of datasets available on Data.gov for the major natural resources-related federal agencies:

That’s right: federal conservation agencies have posted a whopping 0.05% of all datasets on Data.gov.

Through our work on the Conservation Registry, we’ve found a fairly high level of resistance to the reality of sharing data, although there are bright spots at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  A related National Database of Conservation Easements has been successful in getting more information from federal sources.

In December of 2009, Office of Management and Budget Director, Peter Orszag, issued a directive to all agencies on implementing the President’s Open Government Initiative.  To speed the availability of government data to the public, the directive required:

“Within 45 days, each agency shall identify and publish online in an open format at least three high-value data sets (see attachment section 3.a.i) and register those data sets via Data.gov. These must be data sets not previously available online or in a downloadable format.”

Apparently these agencies thought the directive said they had 450 days to deliver more information to the public.

True, some of these agencies do have data available, albeit buried, on their agency web pages.  But imagine for a minute if these agencies had embraced the call for transparency and openness.  What connections could we see between agencies?

Posted in Public Lands0 Comments

US_Capitol_Building,_East_side_steps_and_dome

A Tale of Two Planets: The Funding and Defunding of Climate and Conservation Programs

In the planet that is the House of Representatives, there is no climate change.  So it is understandable then that in their Continuing Resolution to fund the government, they would defund any program that addresses climate change, including preventing the EPA from spending money regulating greenhouse gas emissions and slashing $48 million from Department of the Interior climate change adaptation programs (or if amended by a proposal by Rep. Steve Pearce of New Mexico, the Interior Department couldn’t spend a cent on climate change).

In the planet that is the White House, which seems to reflect the real planet earth, there is in fact climate change that is getting worse by the day.  Even with its legislative setback last year, the White House demonstrated on Valentine’s Day with the release of its annual budget that it is still committed to solving climate change and shifting our economy to cleaner energy sources.  For example, though Interior is cutting over $1 billion from its budget, the administration is proposing $175 million in “Cooperative Landscape Conservation”, or a $43.8 million increase over the fiscal year 2010 funding level.  The programs within Cooperative Landscape Conservation include all the elements in the Department’s previous Climate Adaptation Initiative including investments in science, planning, and on the ground restoration. Instead of making cuts across the board, the administration is actually prioritizing its spending, and making new investments in what is important to the challenges we face today.

Here is a breakdown of the House Continuing Resolution impact on climate change adaptation and other conservation programs.

Posted in Climate Change0 Comments