Sportsmen lauded draft legislation from the U.S. House of Representatives that details procedures for conserving fish and wildlife resources in the face of global climate change.

Members of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership Climate Change Working Group, comprised of representatives of leading sportsmen's and conservation groups, stressed the importance of funding provisions in the discussion draft for adaptation-driven plans that would help safeguard natural resources and public lands from the negative impacts of climate change.

Introduced on March 31 by Reps. Henry Waxman and Edward Markey, leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the discussion draft would attempt to limit the effects of global climate change by imposing a cap on greenhouse gas emissions while investing in energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies. Accelerating climate change is acknowledged by the sportsmen's community as a serious threat to America's hunting and fishing opportunities.

“Climate change is expected to profoundly alter a broad range of fish and wildlife species – and consequently could dramatically affect hunting and fishing opportunities in the future,” said Steve Williams, president of the Wildlife Management Institute and working group co-chair. “Provisions for adaptation in the Waxman-Markey draft would facilitate protection of public resources, including fish and wildlife and their habitats, from the harmful impacts of this inevitable planetary mutation.”

“Scientists project that emissions already in our atmosphere, along with carbon deposition into our oceans, will lead to increased sea level rise; intensified storms, floods and droughts; disappearing mountain snowpack and altered stream flows; evaporating lakes and wetlands; ocean acidification and other disruptions,” said Dr. Michael Hutchins, executive director/CEO of The Wildlife Society, a scientific and educational organization representing 8,000 wildlife professionals, and working group member. “If adequately funded, the natural resources adaptation program in the Waxman-Markey draft would represent a landmark achievement in the history of U.S. wildlife and natural resources conservation.”

The Waxman-Markey draft would create the Natural Resources Climate Change Adaptation Fund to assist federal and state agencies in implementing natural resources adaptation strategies and measures. The draft also would draw on existing state comprehensive wildlife conservation strategies, also known as wildlife action plans, and stipulate revision of the plans to address adaptation strategies and measures for fish and wildlife.

“Many potential uses exist for funds derived from a climate change regulatory protocol,” said Gary Taylor, legislative director of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and working group co-chair, “but few – if any – will deliver as significant a public benefit as natural resources adaptation programs.

“Functioning ecosystems provide numerous benefits, such as clean water and clear air, that ensure the quality of human life,” Taylor continued, “and such ecosystems can capture carbon thorough sequestration, thus contributing to reduced carbon levels. Functioning ecosystems also offer high-quality habitat for fish and wildlife and thereby provide billions of dollars in direct economic benefits. We support the natural resources adaptation title in the Waxman-Markey draft and look forward to working with the House Energy and Commerce Committee to allocate funding derived from the auction of carbon credits to state and federal programs established via this title.”

“The Waxman-Markey draft recognizes the importance of adaptation strategies in state wildlife action plans – tactics that enable landscape-scale approaches in the comprehensive management of fish and wildlife species,” said William Geer, director of the TRCP Center for Western Lands. “As we struggle to address the negative impacts of global climate change on our public lands and outdoor traditions, adaptation-focused funding will be essential in conserving fish and wildlife populations and other natural resources.”

In 208, eight of the TRCP's partner organizations released “Season's End,” a report detailing the predicted impacts of climate change on the habitat and distribution of fish and game in the United States and the implications for sustainable hunting and fishing. “Season's End” states that wildlife management agencies must monitor species, adapt to changes due to climate change and mitigate the effects of climate change by safeguarding habitat and adapting existing management programs.