Preserving our Fish, Wildlife and Plants in an Uncertain Future

Mount Evans, CO | © Fay Augustyn

Mount Evans, CO | © Fay Augustyn

Since I was a baby, I have spent summers in Colorado. Memories of playing in the rivers and hiking the mountain trails are some of my fondest. I continue to believe there is nothing more liberating than escaping the everyday grind of the city and heading into the great outdoors.

However, over the course of the last few years we have seen an increasing number of extreme weather events that are impacting our valuable natural resources. Unfortunately, these impacts are expected to increase with our rapidly changing climate, putting our cherished resources at risk.

In order to help abate these impacts, the Obama Administration recently released the National Fish, Wildlife, and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy. This is a call to action framework that outlines specific and effective steps that can be taken to reduce the impact that climate change will have on our valuable land and water resources. The plan describes specific actions to help protect and preserve freshwater, which will continue to experience decreasing quality and quantity as climate impacts continue.

We believe that achieving the set of goals outlined in the strategy will greatly benefit fish, wildlife, plants, and ecosystems, allowing them to continue to provide sustainable benefits and services to human communities.

One specific action described in the Strategy is the importance of barrier removal – such as dams and culverts – for species migration, habitat connectivity and revival of natural stream systems.Many iconic fish species such as salmon, trout and steelhead face a number of challenges from barriers. The inability to travel upstream to their spawning grounds and the challenge to reach the cold water habitats vital to their existence are just a couple of the issues these fish face from stream barriers.

Unfortunately, climate change will only exacerbate these challenges. The removal of these structural barriers will help to increase the natural resilience to climate change by allowing streams to behave in a natural way and allow species to reach cold-water habitats and migrate upstream for spawning purposes.

Additionally, this plan involves resource managers from all levels of government; it utilizes sound science to make the urgent case for action; it lays out comprehensive, and achievable goals and actions; and it provides a path for implementation by a wide array of partners.

While planning for climate change is important, all the plans in the world will be worthless if there are not the resources for implementing these plans. Specific programs like NOAA’s Community-based Restoration Program help to provide funding for the removal of outdated, unsafe dams that deplete fisheries, degrade river ecosystems, and diminish recreational opportunities on nearly all of the nation’s rivers.  

Thank you, Mr. President for beginning to address the issues that our fish, wildlife and plants will experience from an increasing climate. We look forward to working with the Administration to see these plans through.