In an understandable effort to get all land-management agencies on the same page when it comes to climate change, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on Monday signed off on a strategy to develop some coordination in how climate change might already be affecting, or could in the future, the country's land, water, ocean, fish, wildlife, and cultural resources.
“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,” the Interior secretary said in a press release. “Because Interior manages one-fifth of our nation’s landmass and 1.7 billion acres on the Outer Continental Shelf, it is imperative that we tackle these impacts of a failed and outdated energy policy. This secretarial order is another milestone in our continuing effort to change how Interior does business to respond to the energy and climate challenges of our time.”
The secretarial order establishes a framework through which Interior bureaus will coordinate climate change science and resource management strategies. Under the framework:
* A new Climate Change Response Council, led by the Secretary, Deputy Secretary and Counselor, will coordinate DOI’s response to the impacts of climate change within and among the Interior bureaus and will work to improve the sharing and communication of climate change impact science, including through www.data.gov;
* Eight DOI regional Climate Change Response Centers, serving Alaska, the Northeast, the Southeast, the Southwest, the Midwest, the West, Northwest, and Pacific regions – will 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; and
* A network of Landscape Conservation Cooperatives will engage DOI and federal agencies, local and state partners, and the public to craft practical, 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 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 Secretary Salazar.
Along with coordinating Interior's response to the impacts of climate change, the Climate Change Response Council will oversee the DOI Carbon Storage Project, through which the Interior Department is developing methodologies for both geological (i.e., underground) and biological (e.g., forests and rangelands) carbon storage, and the DOI Carbon Footprint Project, through which DOI will develop a unified greenhouse gas emission reduction program, including setting a baseline and reduction goal for the department’s greenhouse gas emissions and energy use.
Through the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Reclamation, Minerals Management Service, and Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior oversees one-fifth of the nation’s landmass and 1.7 billion acres on the Outer Continental Shelf, supplies drinking water to more than 31 million people and irrigation water to 140,000 farmers, manages iconic wildlife species from the Arctic to the Everglades, holds trust responsibilities on behalf of the federal government for over 500 tribal nations, and is home to the nation’s top scientists and natural and cultural resource managers.