Accelerating changes in our climate (temperature and precipitation) will affect fish, wildlife and plants across Washington in profound ways. Some species will continue to thrive while others will be increasingly challenged through the loss of suitable habitat and ecological conditions necessary for their survival.
In order to fulfill its mission to serve Washington citizens by protecting, restoring and enhancing fish and wildlife and their habitats, the agency is developing strategic approaches for dealing with the unprecedented threats climate change poses to our natural resources. The agency is seeking to ensure that its investments and operations are strategic and prudent in light of predicted changes in our climate.
In fact, changes in temperature and precipitation trends across Washington have already been documented, and have begun to impact wildlife species and their habitats. Scientists project escalating impacts in the coming decades, including increasing air temperature, declining snowpack, changes in streamflow runoff, increasing summer water temperature, increased risk of forest fires, rising sea levels and increases in ocean acidification. The potential ecological consequences of these climatic changes are far reaching and include loss of spawning habitat for fish, impacts on food production, reduced erosion and flood protection, shifts in species distributions, impacts on recreation, loss of water quality and others. For a thorough discussion of observed and projected climate driven changes on species and ecosystems in Washington, see Climate Impacts Group's Washington Climate Change Impacts Assessment.
WDFW is committed to addressing both its own contribution to the sources of greenhouse gases, and also to facilitate our ability to adapt to climate change.
For more on the agency’s mitigation efforts, see the report: "Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Washington State Government"
In 2009, Agency leadership developed guidance for the agency’s approach to addressing climate change, which includes the following four major goals:
- Drive conservation at broad landscape scales in response to a changing climate.
- Meet or exceed requirements for Washington State agencies to reduce greenhouse emissions.
- Ensure fish and wildlife needs, as well as other elements of biodiversity are considered as Washington State strives to achieve sustainable energy security.
- Provide education and training opportunities for WDFW employees, the legislature and the public regarding the implications and urgent nature of climate change for fish, wildlife, habitat and ecosystems and information on how we can meet our conservation mandate in the face of climate change.
For more on the agency’s adaptation efforts, click here.
STATEWIDE MULTI-SECTOR ADAPTATION PLANNING
WDFW has also been participating in development of an integrated, statewide climate response strategy, as directed by SB5560, the Climate Leadership Act passed in 2009.
WDFW co-chaired a 25 member stakeholder advisory group which met periodically over the course of a year to prioritize adaptation responses for the most significant risks to species, habitats and ecosystems. The final report is available online. WDFW also sits on a steering committee of six state agencies, facilitated by the Department of Ecology, which is guiding development of an integrated state response strategy to the challenges of climate change, due in December 2011.
NATIONAL AND REGIONAL CLIMATE ADAPTATION PLANNING
WDFW is participating on policy and technical committees to develop a national adaptation strategy for fish, wildlife and plants. The agency also sits on steering committees for both the Great Northern and the Northern Pacific Landscape Conservation Collaboratives (LCCs). The LCCs are regional networks designed to facilitate information sharing on emerging conservation issues across states (including climate change), identify priority research needs, and foster collaborative landscape level initiatives.