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TRCP addresses impacts of climate change at House hearing

3/4/2009

WASHINGTON — Sportsmen advocated for federal management practices that sustain fish and wildlife populations in the face of global climate change at a U.S. House of Representatives hearing today, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership announced. The sportsmen's testimony, submitted jointly by the TRCP and American Wildlands, emphasizes the need to safeguard migration corridors and other crucial public-lands habits in addressing the landscape-level effects of climate change, which is subject to increased funding under the proposed budget for 2010.

A growing body of evidence demonstrates how climate change can fundamentally alter American landscapes, economies and recreational traditions, particularly those that rely on federal public lands. As fish and wildlife habitat, abundance and distribution shift in response to a changing climate, patterns of hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities likewise could follow suit. The Tuesday oversight hearing convened by the House Committee on Natural Resources' National Parks, Forests and Public Lands Subcommittee evaluated the role public lands can play in mitigating the effects of climate change and weighed the distribution of millions of dollars to federal agencies to address threats to natural resources on these lands.

"Climate change has the potential to impair our fish and wildlife populations and outdoor traditions," said William Geer, who directs the TRCP's Western lands office and has worked on conservation issues for more than three decades. "Our ability to address the challenges presented by climate change now will determine the future of our iconic landscapes, the animals that inhabit them and our ability to hunt and fish."

"By taking decisive action to protect crucial areas of fish and wildlife habitat like migration corridors, the federal government has an opportunity to address the potentially devastating impacts of global climate change," said Rick Ridgeway, founder of the Freedom to Roam coalition and well-known mountaineer and outdoor adventurer. "If important habitat areas become isolated or fragmented by climate change, the survival of large mammals, as well as numerous smaller species, could be gravely threatened."Freedom to Roam unites a range of diverse stakeholders to forge solutions to the threats that human encroachment and global warming present to the survival of America's wildlife.

Sportsmen stress the importance of public lands, including those administered by the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service, in providing habitat connectivity and wildlife movement corridors at a regional level. American Wildlands' Corridors of Life program works to identify and conserve habitat links in the northern Rockies in concert with ongoing efforts by local, state, regional and national entities and in collaboration with federal and state biologists.

"Obviously, maintaining the ecological connections and wildlife movement corridors between major wildland habitats presents an enormous challenge," said Jim Roscoe, Corridors of Life program coordinator for AWL, "and the central role of our public lands in responding to this challenge cannot be overstated. Americans are counting on our federal government to guarantee adequate funding and the appropriate management to conserve these critical habitat linkages and secure the future of our irreplaceable fish and wildlife resources."

Accelerating climate change is acknowledged by the sportsmen's community as a serious threat to America's hunting and fishing opportunities. Eight of the TRCP's partner organizations recently 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. A sequel presenting strategies, measures and costs to help fish and wildlife adapt to global climate change is scheduled for release in 2009.

"In adapting to climate change, securing funding for fish and wildlife management is critical," concluded Geer, who formerly directed the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. "The appropriate tools and resources will equip wildlife management agencies to capably administer fish and wildlife resources and mitigate the effects of climate change."

Inspired by the legacy of Theodore Roosevelt, the TRCP is a coalition of organizations and grassroots partners working together to preserve the traditions of hunting and fishing.