Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today launched the first-ever department-wide strategy to address the current and future impacts of climate change on America’s land, water, ocean, fish, wildlife, and cultural resources.
The secretarial order (pdf) establishes a framework through which all of the Interior bureaus will coordinate climate change science and resource management strategies. Interior manages one-fifth of our nation’s landmass and 1.7 billion acres on the Outer Continental Shelf.
“Across the country, Americans are experiencing first-hand the impacts of climate change, from growing pressure on water supplies to more intense droughts and fires to rampant bark beetle infestations,” said Salazar today in Washington.
“The unprecedented scope of climate change impacts requires Interior bureaus and agencies to work together, and with other federal, state, tribal and local governments, and private landowner partners, to develop landscape-level strategies for understanding and responding to climate change impacts,” said Salazar.
Environmental groups praised the new plan.
"Secretary Salazar has shown true leadership by making it a priority for his agency to address the impacts of global warming on our treasured public lands, waters, and wildlife," said the Sierra Club today in a statement.
Climate Change Response Council
As part of the framework, DOI will establish a new Climate Change Response Council to coordinate DOI’s response to the impacts of climate change within and among the Interior bureaus and improve the sharing and communication of climate change impact science.
In addition to coordinating DOI’s response to the impacts of climate change, the Climate Change Response Council will oversee the DOI Carbon Storage Project, which studies geological and biological sequestration.
Today's order also establishes eight DOI regional Climate Change Response Centers — serving Alaska, the Northeast, the Southeast, the Southwest, the Midwest, the West, Northwest, and Pacific regions — to synthesize existing climate change impact data and management strategies, help resource managers put them into action on the ground, and engage the public through education initiatives.
Working with the DOI and federal agencies will be a network of Landscape Conservation Cooperatives, local and state partners, and the public to construct landscape-level strategies for managing climate change impacts within the eight regions. The cooperatives will focus on impacts such as the effects of climate change on wildlife migration patterns, wildfire risk, drought, or invasive species that typically extend beyond the borders of any single National Wildlife Refuge, BLM unit, or National Park.
"The Interior Department is in a unique position to protect our wild legacy from the impacts of global warming," said the Sierra Club. "The strategy announced today by Secretary Salazar will go a long way towards achieving these goals. We look forward to working with him in the coming months to implement the program."
Today’s Secretarial Order builds on another order issued in March which prioritized development of renewable energy on public lands and offshore waters in order to reduce the country’s dependence on foreign oil and to reduce greenhouse gas pollution.