Measurements and observations show unequivocally that the earth’s climate is changing, and Washington is experiencing changes consistent with those observed globally. The 2013 State of Knowledge Report on Climate Change in Washington State provides a summary of these changes, which include increasing temperatures, a longer frost-free season, decreased spring snowpack, earlier peak streamflows in many rivers, rising sea levels and changing ocean chemistry. These shifts are projected to accelerate in coming years and will cause significant impacts to plant and animal populations across the state, from iconic species like salmon and lynx to the tiny sea snails that form a vital part of the marine food web.
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 that these changes pose to our natural resources. The agency is seeking to ensure that its investments and operations are strategic and prudent in light of predicted climatic changes. 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 its own contribution to greenhouse gas emissions, and also to ensuring that we account for the risks and impacts of climate change throughout agency operations. For more on the agency’s mitigation efforts, see the report: "Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Washington State Government”.
WDFW leadership has developed four strategic goals to guide the agency’s approach:
- Drive conservation at 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 of climate change for fish, wildlife, habitat and ecosystems.
The agency’s climate response activities are generally organized into three major areas: 1) securing the scientific data needed to inform management actions, 2) providing training and resources for staff, and 3) integrating climate considerations into key agency activities, such as habitat restoration, management of wildlife areas, and the design of stream crossing structures to ensure adequate fish passage. For more information about WDFW’s climate-related activities, please contact Lynn Helbrecht, the agency’s Climate Change Coordinator.
WDFW participated on the steering committee for the development of an integrated, statewide climate response strategy, as directed by SB5560, the Climate Leadership Act of 2009. The Washington State Integrated Climate Response Strategy was completed in 2012 and outlines a broad suite of actions needed to better prepare the state to respond to the impacts of climate change on coastal communities, water resources, agriculture, forests, species and ecosystems, and built infrastructure. It calls on state agencies to make climate adaptation an integral part of agency planning and to make scientific information about climate change readily available to decision makers in the public and private sectors.
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 report, developed as an interim product of the Strategy, is available here.
WDFW participates on an interagency working group which leads implementation of the National Fish, Wildlife, and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy. The agency also sits on steering committees for both the Great Northern and the North 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.