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Becoming a Climate Ready Conservation Agency

The National Academy of Sciences last week released a set of three new reports on advancing the science, adapting to the impacts, and limiting the magnitude of climate change. These peer-reviewed reports reconfirmed that there is a strong, credible body of evidence documenting climate change, its correlation to greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel use, and its association with impacts. Many of these will affect forests and grasslands including increases in intense rainfall, decreases in snow cover, more intense and frequent heat waves and drought, increases in wildfires, and longer growing seasons. Many impacts of a changing climate are already showing up. Projections anticipate an additional warming of 2 to 11.5 degrees F over the next century, on top of the 1.4 degrees F already observed over the past 100 years.

Climate change and its implications for forests may be the biggest environmental challenge the Forest Service has ever faced. Are we ready?

The projected changes may seem to be out in a distant future, but they are really not that far off. Some of us have been in a land management career for almost half of that. The newest employees in the Forest Service will experience the extreme changes for much, if not all, of their careers. What will we in today’s Forest Service leave them to work with? Can we respond to the changes that are already occurring and set things up to deal with the more rapid pace of change expected in the latter part of this century? Can we build resilience with what we do today and leave options for the next generation of users and forest managers?

I think that we can and we must. We have a lot going for us: land management, science, and landowner services under one roof; a range of legal authorities for a spectrum of interventions in the name of forest ecosystems; intimate knowledge of the land through experience and science-based resource assessments; strong partnerships with other agencies, NGO’s, and communities; and an esprit de corps that, despite rocky periods, has been the envy of many government agencies.

For more Forest Service climate change information please click here.

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