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As part of the Department of the Interior’s commitment to building a coordinated strategy to respond to the impacts of climate change on the nation’s natural resources, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today releases its final strategic plan that will guide the agency’s efforts to respond to the unprecedented threat posed by global warming.

The plan, titled “Rising to the Urgent Challenge: Strategic Plan for Responding to Accelerating Climate Change,” provides a framework within which the Service will work as part of the conservation community to help ensure the sustainability of fish, wildlife, plants and habitats in the face of accelerating climate change. It is an integral part of an overarching Department of the Interior (DOI) strategy establishing a framework through which Interior bureaus will coordinate climate change science and resource management plans and actions.

“The growing impacts from climate change on wildlife, plants, and watersheds call for a coordinated and strategic response from the Department and its bureaus,” says Tom Strickland, Assistant Secretary of the Interior for fish and wildlife and parks. “The Service’s plan is both a call to arms and a clear roadmap for action. It is firmly rooted in sound science, an adaptive, landscape-scale conservation approach, and collaboration with partners.”

Service Acting Director Rowan Gould says the strategy has been shaped by more than 18 months of intensive work and input from employees, as well as comments from partners, and the public submitted during a two-month comment period last fall.

“That input has given focus and clarity to the plan’s discussion of key climate adaptation efforts such as a National Fish and Wildlife Climate Adaptation Strategy, Landscape Conservation Cooperatives, and species and habitat vulnerability assessments,” Gould says. “Support from our partners—and the American public—is critical, because climate change is a challenge that is too large for any one agency, department, or government to tackle alone.”

The plan, which can be found on the Web at http://www.fws.gov/home/climatechange/, has three key elements: Adaptation – helping to reduce the impacts of climate change on fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats; Mitigation – taking actions to reduce greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere; and Engagement – reaching out to Service employees, local, national and international partners in the public and private sectors, key constituencies and stakeholders and the broader citizenry of this country to join forces and seek solutions to the challenges posed by climate change to fish and wildlife conservation.

The Service’s plan commits the agency to be a leader in addressing the conservation challenges of a changing climate through some significant commitments. An accompanying action plan details specific steps the Service is taking now and during the next five years to implement the plan. These include:

  • Targeting conservation by working with partners to develop science-based methods to identify the most vulnerable species.
  • Prioritizing existing challenges that will be made more difficult as a result of changing climate, including water scarcity and habitat fragmentation.
  • Leading efforts to develop a National Fish and Wildlife Climate Adaptation Strategy to serve as the conservation community’s shared blueprint to guide wildlife adaptation partnerships during the next 50 years.
  • Creating a National Biological Inventory and Monitoring Partnership that strategically deploys the conservation community’s monitoring resources.
  • Working with DOI’s Regional Climate Change Response Centers, the Partnership would generate scientific data needed to understand climate change effects on the distribution and abundance of fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats; model predicted population and habitat change; and help us determine if we are achieving our goals.
  • Helping establish a network of Landscape Conservation Cooperatives that develop regional and field technical capacity by working with partners to provide cutting edge science and information.

These cooperatives, guided by DOI’s newly created Climate Response Council, will be the primary vehicle through which the Service and partners acquire and apply the best climate change science to inform fish and wildlife management decisions and actions.

“The Service’s climate strategy acknowledges and embraces the agency's role in providing national leadership on this critical issue facing fish and wildlife agencies, while also acknowledging the critical role of states, tribes, and private organizations in delivering fish and wildlife conservation across the country,” says Dave Schad, Director of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Division of Fish and Wildlife. “It recognizes the importance of collaborative approaches and partnerships in responding to the challenges posed by an uncertain future climate, and reflects an increasingly sophisticated view of how the conservation community must approach adaptation strategies at the policy, science, and program levels.”

Bob Bendick, Director of U.S. Government Relations for The Nature Conservancy, says the plan “issues a challenge to every Service member and every Service partner to act swiftly and decisively in response to unprecedented change in the natural world, identifying collective wisdom and collaborative action as yardsticks to our success.” For more information on the Service’s climate strategy, visit http://www.fws.gov/home/climatechange/strategy.html

For more information on how the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with partners to conserve the nature of America in a changing climate, visit http://www.fws.gov/home/climatechange/

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit
www.fws.gov.

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