Obama Invites Public Comment on New Five-Year Climate Strategy

WASHINGTON, DC, January 19, 2012 (ENS) – The public is asked to comment on the Obama administration’s first draft national strategy to reduce the impacts climate change is already having on wildlife, fish and plants and ecosystems, and the people and economies that depend on them.

The National Fish, Wildlife and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy, issued today in draft form, is intended to guide the nation’s efforts over the next five to 10 years. It is open for public review and comment through March 5 at www.wildlifeadaptationstrategy.gov.

“The impacts of climate change are already here and those who manage our landscapes are already dealing with them,” said Deputy Secretary of the Interior David Hayes.

“The reality is that rising sea levels, warmer temperatures, loss of sea ice and changing precipitation patterns – trends scientists have definitively connected to climate change – are already affecting the species we care about, the services we value, and the places we call home,” said Hayes. “A national strategy will help us prepare and adapt.”

It’s a precautionary strategy that states, “By taking steps now to help safeguard the nation’s natural resources against the impacts of climate change, we will be better able to limit future damages and their associated costs, and more effectively take advantage of beneficial opportunities.”

Congress called for a national, government-wide strategy in 2010, directing the President’s Council on Environmental Quality and the Department of the Interior to develop it.

White-tailed deer in Texas Hill country (Photo by KM&G-Morris)

CEQ and Interior responded by assembling federal, state and tribal fish and wildlife conservation agencies to draft the strategy. More than 100 diverse researchers and managers from across the country participated in the drafting process for the new climate change partnership.

The first words of the strategy document are, “Our climate is changing…” followed immediately by the warning that, “Changes are expected to significantly increase over time, challenging our ability to manage and sustain these resources and the essential services they provide Americans every day.”

The partner agencies arrived at seven goals. Two address issues of habitat and try to strike a balance between protecting ecosystem functions and providing “sustainable cultural, subsistence, recreational, and commercial use” in a changing climate.

Two others support management that is “adaptive” and “effective” with “integrated observation and monitoring and improved decision support tools.”

Two other goals are focused on knowledge. More information about the impacts on fish, wildlife and plants and about their responses is part of the strategy. And so is cultivating public awareness to “motivate action to safeguard fish, wildlife and plants in a changing climate.”

The seventh goal is to, “Reduce non-climate stressors to help fish, wildlife, plants, and ecosystems adapt.”

The partnership is co-led by Interior’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, representing state fish and wildlife agencies.

“This strategy provides a framework for safeguarding America’s fish, wildlife and plant resources and the valuable services they provide over the long-term,” said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator.

“NOAA is committed to working with federal, state, tribal and local government agencies, non-government organizations and the public in this process because we all have important roles to play in preparing all regions of our nation in a changing climate,” said Lubchenco,

Patricia Riexinger, director of the Division of Fish, Wildlife and Marine Resources for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, spoke up for the state agencies.

“For more than a century, state fish and wildlife agencies have been entrusted by the public to be good stewards of their natural resources,” she said. “To do that, we constantly are called upon to address threats to our natural resources.”

“Today’s pressures on fish and wildlife and their habitats are exacerbated by climate change and together they emphasize the need for increased conservation and science-based management,” Riexinger said. “The strategy is our nation’s insurance for managing healthy and robust ecosystems in uncertain future conditions.”

There will be five public information sessions in various locations around the country and two webinars to provide details and encourage dialogue on the strategy and its development.

To register for these meetings and for more information on the public comment process, visit: http://www.wildlifeadaptationstrategy.gov/public-comments.php.

Written comments may be submitted by postal mail to the Office of the Science Advisor, Attn: National Fish, Wildlife, and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 N. Fairfax Drive Suite 222, Arlington, VA 22203.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2012. All rights reserved.

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