While public debate in the U.S. swirls over the best and quickest course of action to reduce carbon emissions, another debate on global warming is quietly unfolding in anonymous government offices across the country: how to manage wildlife and ecosystems that are certain to be greatly impacted by the forces of climate change already underway. The daunting challenges are broadly spelled out in this 32-page strategic plan put forth in December by the U.S Fish & Wildlife Service (which FWS is careful to label an "internal discussion draft"). As this passage makes clear, there is obvious concern that the "unprecendented scope and magnitude" of climate change may overwhelm the agency's best efforts:
In the history of wildlife conservation, the Service and the larger conservation community have never experienced a challenge that is so ubiquitous across the landscape. Our existing conservation infrastructure will be pressed to the limit "” quite likely beyond its limit "” to respond successfully.
Thus, some tough decisions lie ahead. The FWS envisions
that some populations and species will be lost, and some will only survive in the wild through our direct and continuous intervention. We will be especially challenged to conserve species and habitats that are particularly vulnerable to climate-driven changes, but we will dedicate our best efforts and expertise to the task, recognizing that we cannot save everything. We will need to make choices, and we will need to apply ourselves where we can make the greatest difference.
In my next post, I'll describe the two courses of action that will guide federal wildlife management in the years to come. I'll also speak with several biologists about the most vulnerable habitat and species they see threatened immediately by climate change.