Climate Change Initiatives at WDFW

In 2010, WDFW adopted strategic, long-term goals to address the challenge of climate change, including a commitment to drive conservation at broad landscape scales in response to a changing climate, and to provide leadership in the development of statewide adaptation efforts for species, habitats and ecosystems.   Several projects are currently underway to advance these goals.

  1. Providing leadership for a statewide effort to develop adaptation goals for species and ecosystems. 
  • In February of 2011, WDFW provided leadership for a 25 member stakeholder advisory group in a year-long process to produce climate change adaptation recommendations for species, habitats and ecosystems across the state.   This report was developed at the request of the steering committee for implementation of SB5560, the Washington State Climate Leadership Act, and it will become part of the Statewide Climate Response Strategy. The report includes a summary of climate impacts on key ecological systems of the state and near term actions for each of ten overarching statewide goals. This report is also being used to inform WDFW’s efforts to identify priority adaptation strategies for its own operations.
  1. Applying climate science and climate change models to regional issues and needs
  • WDFW is a major partner in a research project to determine which ecological systems and species will be most vulnerable to climate change, in order that we can most strategically design restoration and protection programs. The results of these analyses will be used in the development of habitat management plans and plans to protect our most sensitive and vulnerable species.

  • WDFW is also initiating two new research projects to apply climate models in an effort to determine future stream conditions relative to the needs of specific fish species. Results will be used to inform fishery management decisions.  
  1. Working to integrate climate change into existing conservation programs and initiatives of the agency
  • WDFW has been a major partner in an effort to identify critical area needed for “habitat connectivity”, in order to provide for expected changes in species’ ranges in response to a changing climate over time.  These connectivity corridors are being identified along gradients in elevation, latitude and temperature to facilitate species movement.

  • The agency is also working to integrate climate into restoration work, or to conduct “climate-smart” restoration. For example a document which details techniques for stream restoration is being revised to include information on how restoration efforts should be adapted in light of various climate change scenarios. Similarly, a forest restoration project in the Oak Creek Wildlife Area is being designed to diversify stand structure and enhance system health in order to reduce the impacts of catastrophic wildfire, the incidence of which is expected to increase with hotter, dryer summers and decreased soil moisture from a warming climate.