Shared solutions to protect shared values

  • Woman on horseback. Photo by Chase Fountain
  • Birdwatchers. Photo by Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation
  • Butterfly. Photo by Tim Daniel / Ohio Division of Wildlife

The National Fish, Wildlife and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy (Strategy) provides a framework for actions needed now to help safeguard our valuable natural resources and the communities and economies that depend on them in a changing climate. Implementing the Strategy will also fill critical gaps in the science, monitoring, modeling and training to sustain fish, wildlife and plants in a changing climate.

Promoting Implementation

Since the Strategy was released in March of 2013, federal, state, and tribal agencies have worked together to promote the Strategy as a resource for adaptation planning at a variety of scales and encourage partners to implement recommended strategies and actions. Presentations at numerous meeting and conferences as well as webinars reaching over 500 people including state, tribal, and NGO stakeholders have helped to spread the word about this important collaborative effort.

Implementation of the Strategy is being overseen by a Joint Implementation Working Group (JIWG) made up of representatives from the same Federal, State, and Tribal agencies that led the successful completion of the Strategy. The purpose of the JIWG is to help facilitate and promote implementation across multiple agencies, as well as to share information among participants. The group is led by four co-chairs representing FWS, NOAA, the state of California, and the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission (GLIFWC). It first met in November of 2013.

The JIWG is working to:

  • Promote awareness, understanding and use of the Strategy as a key tool in addressing climate change;
  • Engage stakeholders and conservation partners to assist with Strategy implementation and revision;
  • Develop a process and tools to evaluate implementation and progress;
  • Facilitate efficient communication and coordination on climate change adaptation activities among federal agencies and between federal agencies and state and tribal governments; and
  • Oversee future revisions of the Strategy.

Progress and Key Efforts

Implementation of the Strategy is already underway. Since its release, agencies have worked across levels of government to promote it as a resource for adaptation planning, to engage stakeholders and conservation partners, and to evaluate progress. Public meetings and webinars reaching hundreds of stakeholders and a recently developed engagement plan are helping to share information and connect new audiences with this important collaborative effort.

In addition, many government and non-government partners at local, state, regional levels were already building on existing efforts to better understand, prepare for, and reduce impacts of a changing climate on the nation’s living resources and the communities that depend on them. These existing efforts helped inform the development of the Strategy.

A Progress Report released in September 2014 highlighted 50 examples of agencies and stakeholders working together to address the impacts of climate change on fish, wildlife, and plants. These examples demonstrate the diversity of projects, scales of planning, and breadth of partnerships needed to integrate climate change in conservation planning. Over the next year, a forward-looking report on planned activities will provide a more complete picture of how the Strategy is being applied, and its implementation will help to fill critical gaps in research, monitoring, and training.

In 2015, the JIWG released the Next Steps Report, which provides a sampling of the many ways in which Federal, State, and Tribal agencies are undertaking climate adaptation and resilience efforts in FY 2015 and 2016 to implement the recommendations of the Strategy. This report builds on the 2014 Taking Action report, but is more forward looking and emphasizes a broader picture of the climate adaptation and resilience work currently underway or planned in the near future.

The Obama Administration has repeatedly asked federal agencies to ensure that their adaptation efforts are aligned with the recommendations of the Strategy and to use it to inform planning. The Strategy was referenced in guidance provided by CEQ for agency-specific Adaptation Plans (under Executive Order 13514), as well as in Executive Order 13653 on Preparing the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change. Released in November of 2013, this Executive Order calls on federal agencies to “build on...recent interagency climate adaptation strategies such as the National Fish, Wildlife and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy, released March 26, 2013” as well as other interagency planning efforts. In October of 2014, the Interagency Council on Climate Change Preparedness and Resilience released a report entitled Priority Agenda for Enhancing the Climate Resilience of America’s Natural Resources. This report identifies implementation of the Strategy as a vital step in preparing the nation for the impacts of climate change.

A variety of interagency projects are also in progress that will address key recommendations in the Strategy. For example, Federal agencies are already putting together a joint database to share and synthesize vulnerability assessments that help to identify species or systems likely to be most affected by climate changes, as well as developing shared guidelines for using and interpreting climate change models and scenarios. Similarly, agencies are working together to develop training on the development and use of vulnerability assessments and other tools for managing under uncertainty.

States are working to update their State Wildlife Action Plans to incorporate climate change and other topics. Revisions of State Wildlife Action Plans could incorporate appropriate elements of this Strategy to help reduce the impacts of climate change on Species of Greatest Conservation Need and their associated habitats. Some state fish and wildlife agencies are also considering how to align some of their State Adaptation Plan goals and actions with the Strategy as those plans are developed or updated.

The Strategy encourages Landscape Conservation Cooperatives to take a lead role in implementation, and several LCCs are already using the Strategy to help inform their work and regional priorities. Many ongoing and planned LCC projects are well aligned with Strategy recommendations, including efforts to identify refugia areas for vulnerable species, conduct research into impacts of sea level rise on coastal habitats, and develop standards and criteria for vulnerability assessments.