Canada: US Governments Propose Wildlife Climate Adaptation Strategy

Last Updated: April 10 2013
Article by Dianne Saxe

As hundreds of starving sea lion pups wash up on the California coast, and as the Canadian government shuts down research into climate change, a coalition of American federal, state and tribal government agencies has released a National Fish, Wildlife and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy.

Around the world, many species are already suffering from the effects of climate change. The sea lion babies are likely starving because there was so much less fish in the unusually warm water this winter, making it hard for their mothers to find food. The oceans are in trouble everywhere: warming, acidifying, overfished and under-protected, and facing catastrophic collapse.

The wildlife strategy provides a unified approach—reflecting shared principles and science-based practices—for reducing the negative impacts of climate change on fish, wildlife, plants, and the natural systems upon which they depend. Its key goals are to:

1 | Conserve and connect habitat
2 | Manage speciesand habitats
3 | Enhance management capacity
4 | Support adaptive management
5 | Increase knowledge and information
6 | Increase awareness and motivate action
7 | Reduce non-climate stressors.

The Report reminds us how much we stand to lose if we continue to allow the destruction of habitats and ecosystems for short term profits, and that we do know what to do to allow them to rebuild. Here's an excerpt from the Executive Summary:


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. The focus is on actions 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. 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 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.

Because the development of this adaptation Strategy will only be worthwhile if it leads to meaningful action, it is directly aimed at several key groups: natural resource management agency leaders and staff (federal, state, and tribal); elected officials in both executive and legislative government branches (federal, state, local, and tribal); leaders in industries that depend on and can impact natural resources, such as agriculture, forestry, and recreation; and private landowners, whose role is crucial because they own more than 70 percent of the land in the United States. The Strategy should also be useful for decision makers in sectors that affect natural resources (such as agriculture, energy, urban development, transportation, and water resource management), for conservation partners, for educators, and for the interested public, whose input and decisions will have major impacts on safeguarding the nation's living resources in the face of climate change. The Strategy also should be useful to those in other countries dealing with these same issues and those dealing with the international dimensions of climate adaptation.

Fish, wildlife, and plants provide jobs, food, clean water, storm protection, health benefits and many other important ecosystem services that support people, communities and economies across the nation every day. the observed changes in the climate are already impacting these valuable resources and systems. These impacts are expected to increase with continued changes in the planet's climate system. Action is needed now to help safeguard these natural resources and the communities and economies that depend on them.

Measurements unequivocally show that average surface air temperatures in the United States have risen two degrees Fahrenheit (°F) over the last 50 years. The science strongly supports the finding that the underlying cause of these changes is the accumulation of heat-trapping carbon dioxide (CO2 ) and other greenhouse gases (GHG) in the atmosphere. If GHG emissions continue unabated, the planet's average temperature is projected to rise by an additional 2.0 to 11.5 °F by the end of the century, with accompanying increases in extreme weather events, variable and/or inconsistent weather patterns, sea levels and other factors with significant impacts on natural environments and the vital services they provide.

Faced with a future climate that will be unlike that of the recent past, the nation has the opportunity to act now to reduce the impacts of climate change on its valuable natural resources and resource-dependent communities and businesses. Preparing for and addressing these changes in the near term can help increase the efficiency and effectiveness of actions to reduce negative impacts and take advantage of potential benefits from a changing climate (climate adaptation). In 2009, Congress recognized the need for a national government to take effective steps towards climate change adaptation over the next five to ten years.

Federal, state, and tribal governments and conservation partners are encouraged to read the Strategy in its entirety to identify intersections between the document and their mission areas and activities.

The Strategy is guided by nine principles. These principles include collaborating across all levels of government, working with non-government entities such as private landowners and other sectors like agriculture and energy, and engaging the public. It is also important to use the best available science—and to identify where science and management capabilities must be improved or enhanced. When adaptation steps are taken, it is crucial to carefully monitor actual outcomes in order to adjust future actions to make them more effective, an iterative process called adaptive management. We must also link efforts within the U.S. with wide climate adaptation strategy for fish, wildlife, plants, and ecosystems, asking the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) to develop such a strategy.

CEQ and DOI responded by assembling an unprecedented partnership of federal, state, and tribal fish and wildlife conservation agencies to draft the document. More than 90 diverse technical, scientific, and management experts from across the country participated in drafting the technical content of the document. The result is The National Fish, Wildlife and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy (hereafter Strategy).

The Strategy is the first joint effort of three levels of government (federal, state, and tribal) that have primary authority and responsibility for the living resources of the United States to identify what must be done to help these resources become more resilient, adapt to, and survive a warming climate. It is designed to inspire and enable natural resource managers, legislators, efforts internationally to build resilience and adaptation for species that migrate and depend on areas beyond U.S. borders. Finally, given the size and urgency of the challenge, we must begin acting now.

Climate Change impacts on natural Systems

The Strategy details the current and expected future impacts of climate change on the eight major ecosystem types in the United States (Chapter 2). For example, warmer temperatures and changing precipitation patterns are expected to cause more fires and more pest outbreaks, such as the mountain pine beetle epidemic in western forests, while some types of forests will displace what is now tundra. Grasslands and shrublands are likely to be invaded by non-native species and suffer wetland losses from drier conditions, which would decrease nesting habitat for waterfowl. Deserts are expected to get hotter and drier, accelerating existing declines in species like the Saguaro cactus.

Climate change is expected to be especially dramatic in the Arctic. Temperature increases in northern Alaska would change tussock tundra into shrublands, leading to increased fire risk. In addition, the thawing of frozen organic material in soils would release huge amounts of GHGs, contributing to climate change. In coastal and marine areas, the loss of sea ice and changing ocean conditions are threatening key species such as walrus, ice seals and polar bears as well as the lifestyles and subsistence economics of indigenous peoples.

... Climate adaptation Strategy areas (including refugia and corridors of habitat that allow species to migrate), and areas where habitat restoration can promote resiliency and adaptation of species and ecosystem functions. In addition to traditional habitat restoration and protection efforts, this Strategy envisions innovative opportunities for creating additional habitat. For example, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) works with farmers and ranchers to cost-share conservation practices that benefit at-risk, threatened, or endangered species, such as the lesser prairie chicken. These efforts may be useful in responding to climate change as well as other existing conservation challenges. Similarly, adjusting rice farming practices in Louisiana could provide valuable new resources for a variety of waterfowl and shorebirds whose habitat is now disappearing because of wetland loss and sea level rise.

It is also possible to use applied management to make habitats and species more resistant to climate change so they continue to provide sustainable cultural, subsistence, recreational, and commercial uses. For example, managing stream corridors to preserve functional processes and reconnect channels with well-vegetated floodplains may help to ensure a steady supply of groundwater recharge that maintains coldwater species even when air temperatures rise. Floodplains serve as vital hydrologic capacitors, and may become even more important in many parts of the country as more precipitation falls as rain instead of snow. Protecting and restoring stream habitats to maintain more narrow and deep stream beds and riparian shade cover can also help keep water temperatures cool in a warming climate.

Climate Change adaptation Strategies and actions

The Strategy describes steps that can be taken to address these impacts and help conserve ecosystems and make them more resilient (Chapter 3). Proposed strategies and actions along with checklists to monitor progress are organized under seven major goals in the Strategy: 1 | Conserve and connect habitat 2 | Manage species and habitats 3 | Enhance management capacity 4 | Support adaptive management 5 | Increase knowledge and information 6 | Increase awareness and motivate action 7 | Reduce non-climate stressors

Many proposed actions describe types of conservation activities that management agencies have traditionally undertaken but that will continue to be useful in a period of climate change. Other actions are designed specifically to respond to the new challenges posed by climate change. An extremely important approach for helping fish, wildlife, and plants adapt to climate change is conserving enough suitable habitat to sustain diverse and healthy populations. Many wildlife refuges and habitats could lose some of their original values, as the plants and animals they safeguard are forced to move into more hospitable climes.

As a result, there is an urgent need to identify the best candidates for new conservation Rivers, streams, and lakes face higher temperatures that harm coldwater species like salmon and trout, while sea level rise threatens coastal marshes and beaches, which are crucial habitats for many species, such as the diamondback terrapin and the piping plover. Since water can absorb CO2 from the air, the rising levels of the gas in the atmosphere and accompanying absorption into the oceans have caused ocean waters to become 30 percent more acidic since 1750. Acidification is already affecting the reproduction of organisms such as oysters. As the pH of seawater continues to drop, major impacts on aquatic ecosystems and species are expected. Loss of arctic ice means loss of valuable habitat for many marine species."

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Dianne Saxe
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
In association with
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions