Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today sought out the latest research on climate change in the Pacific Northwest in a roundtable with leading scientists and stakeholders from around the region convened at the University of Washington. She highlighted Interior's role in the President's Climate Action Plan to reduce carbon pollution, move the economy toward cleaner energy sources and prepare communities for the impacts of climate change.
"Even as the nation takes new steps to cut carbon pollution, the President's Climate Action Plan directs that we must also prepare for and adapt to the impacts of a changing climate that are already being felt across the country," said Secretary Jewell. "Today's discussion underscores not only the importance of the scientific research that Interior scientists and our academic partners are performing, but also the need for our land managers and surrounding communities to be prepared for the serious risks that climate change poses in the Pacific Northwest."
Yesterday, Secretary Jewell witnessed firsthand some of these impacts during a visit to Mount Rainier National Park. National Park Service (NPS) and U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists and rangers demonstrated the impacts of receding glaciers and changing climate on the park's rivers, infrastructure, visitor access and recreation opportunities.
At today's roundtable, scientists from USGS and the University of Washington reported that in the Pacific Northwest, reduced snowpack, increased flooding in the coastal zone, and threats to forests all could have far-reaching ecological and socioeconomic consequences.
Scientists discussed, for example, how the combined impact of increasing wildfire, insect outbreaks, and diseases is virtually certain to cause additional forest mortality by the 2040s and long-term transformation of forest landscapes. These and other climate change impacts are detailed in USGS studies and a 2013 report on the implications of climate change for the Northwest's landscapes, waters and communities.
"Expected die-back in our forests will also have impacts in the habitat quality for salmon and other fish species, as well as implications for water quality and water availability," said Dr. Lisa Graumlich, a Prentice and Virginia Bloedel Professor and Dean at the College of the Environment at the University of Washington. "Our ongoing partnership with Department of the Interior and USGS allows us to develop an ever-improving understanding of the effects of climate change and how our communities and agencies can assess the risks and consequences of these potentially sweeping impacts."
Dr. Gustavo Bisbal, director of the Department of the Interior Northwest Climate Science Center (CSC), pointed out how the impacts of climate change on fish, wildlife, and vegetation are also having effects on the cultures of American Indian tribes in the Pacific Northwest.
"Given the broad scale and fundamental transformation we see happening in the natural environment, the Northwest CSC has placed a strong emphasis on exploring the impacts of climate change on the cultural continuity of Native American communities in the Northwest," said Dr. Bisbal. "Our goal is to provide service that enhances the capacity of these communities to respond and adapt to resource scarcity and environmental forces."
In addition to Dr. Graumlich and Dr. Bisbal, others participating in the roundtable included: Nancy Lee, Deputy Regional Director of the USGS Northwest Region and other USGS scientists; representatives of the Quinault Indian Nation; Sarah Creachbaum, Superintendent of Olympic National Park; Karen Taylor-Goodrich, Superintendent of North Cascades National Park Complex, as well as other Interior and University of Washington officials and scientists.
"Today's discussion highlighted the need to work better together at the local, state, federal and tribal levels to prepare our communities for the expected effects of climate change," Secretary Jewell added." Our next generation also has an important role to play by developing meaningful connections to the outdoors and sharing those experiences with families and friends to continue to raise awareness about the important and lasting benefits of a healthy outdoor world."
The Northwest CSC is a Department of the Interior research collaboration hosted by three primary university partners: Oregon State University, the University of Washington, and the University of Idaho. It is one of eight Interior Climate Science Centers that form a national network and are coordinated through the National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center, located at the headquarters of USGS. Each CSC focuses on researching the effects of climate change in its region through a consortium of universities and other partners that enhances collective research resources and eliminates duplication.
In December, for example, Secretary Jewell announced that CSCs were awarding nearly $7 million in 2013 grants to universities and other partners for more than fifty studies as part of the President's Climate Action Plan. The Northwest CSC has several studies focusing on tribes and natural resources of cultural and spiritual value.
The regional climate centers work with 22 interagency public-private Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCCs) organized by Interior's U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to help communities and land managers apply this research to their landscapes and adapt to the effects of climate change that cross land-use boundaries. Together, Interior's CSCs and LCCs are assessing the impacts of climate change and other landscape-scale stressors that typically extend beyond the borders of any single national wildlife refuge, national park or Bureau of Land Management unit and will identify strategies to ensure that resources across landscapes are resilient in the face of climate change.