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Colorado mule deer. Photo by Lew Carpenter

Colorado mule deer. Photo by Lew Carpenter

Heat, Drought, Disease Target Big Game and Their Habitats, Threaten Outdoor Traditions

 

Rising temperatures, deeper droughts and more extreme weather events fueled by manmade climate change are making survival more challenging for America’s treasured big game wildlife from coast to coast, according to a new report from the National Wildlife Federation. Nowhere to Run: Big Game Wildlife in a Warming World details how climate change is already putting many species of big game at risk, creating an uncertain future for big game and the outdoor economy that depends on them.

 

“The recovery of big game species is one of America’s wildlife conservation success stories, made possible in large part by sustained investment by generations of sportsmen,” said Dr. Doug Inkley, senior scientist at the National Wildlife Federation “But today, a changing climate threatens to rewrite that success story.”

 

Wildfire, floods and extreme weather events like heat waves, droughts and heavy rainfall, are becoming more frequent and more severe. Unprecedented changes in habitat are having far-reaching consequences for big game and for sportsmen and women, affecting, for example, the timing of hunting seasons and the distribution and survival of animals.

“We’re already seeing changes where we hunt big game – reduced snowpack, dying forests, shifting migration patterns,” said Todd Tanner, founder and chairman of Conservation Hawks. “We have to let our elected officials know that we need solutions and we need them now. We’re running out of time.”

 

Nowhere to Run takes a comprehensive look at the best available science on climate change’s impacts on big game, covering moose, mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk, pronghorn, bighorn sheep and black bears. The most significant effects include:

 

·         Heat: Moose can become heat-stressed in warm weather, especially in summer if temperatures climb above 60 to70 degrees when moose coats are thinner. Heat stress leads to lower weights, declining pregnancy rates and increased vulnerability to predators and disease. Because of warmer fall and winter temperatures, black bears are already more active than usual during times when they normally conserve energy through hibernation, pushing fat stores to the limit.

·         Drought: More droughts have reduced aspen forests in the west, a favorite elk habitat, and many elk are not migrating as much as they traditionally have. Increasing periods of drought, more invasive plants and wildfires will alter sagebrush and grassland ecosystems, favored pronghorn habitats.

·         Parasites and disease: With less snowpack to kill ticks, moose in New Hampshire are literally being eaten alive, losing so much blood to ticks that they die of anemia. White-tailed deer are susceptible to hemorrhagic disease caused by viruses transmitted by biting midges.

“Cutting carbon pollution is the key in the long run, but in the short term we must also take action to help big game survive the climate changes we’re already seeing,” said Dr. Robert Brown, former dean of North Carolina State University’s College of Natural Resources and former president of The Wildlife Society. “We can do this by promoting climate-smart approaches to conservation and managing big game populations with a changing climate in mind. But with investments in wildlife research at a generational low, policymakers risk making these decisions in the dark.”

 

In 2011, there were more than 12 million adult big game hunters who spent more than $16 billion on hunting.  More than 22 million people observed big game near their homes and 10 million traveled to view big game.  Sportsmen have invested decades and millions of dollars in restoring big game habitats and populations, in excise taxes, hunting and fishing licenses and fees.

“Not only are our sporting traditions at risk, but jobs-producing tourism dollars could decline as there will be fewer wildlife to see in America’s wild places,” saidLarry Schweiger, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “To protect America’s outdoor heritage, we must cut carbon pollution, speed our transition to clean energy and safeguard big game and their habitats from climate change.”

Nowhere to Run outlines the key steps needed to stem climate change and save big game:

 

1.      Address the underlying cause and cut carbon pollution 50 percent by 2030.

2.      Transition to cleaner, more secure sources of energy like offshore wind, solar power and next-generation biofuels and avoid polluting energy like coal and tar sands oil.

3.      Safeguard wildlife and their habitats by promoting climate-smart approaches to conservation.

4.      Factor a changing climate in big game plans and management.

 

The National Wildlife Federation is also running radio ads educating sportsmen about climate change’s threat to moose in Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana and New Hampshire. The version running in Maine, Michigan, Minnesota and Montana is available here: http://bit.ly/MooseRadioAd-MT. The New Hampshire ad is available here: http://bit.ly/MooseRadioAd-NH.

 

Read the report at NWF.org/SportsmenNowhere to Run is the latest in the National Wildlife Federation’s 2013 Wildlife in a Warming World series:

 

·         Wildlife in a Warming World: Confronting the Climate Crisis

·         Shifting Skies: Migratory Birds in a Warming World

·         Swimming Upstream: Freshwater Fish in a Warming World

 

Get more National Wildlife Federation news at NWF.org/News.

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The National Wildlife Federation is America’s largest conservation organization inspiring Americans to protect wildlife for our children’s future.

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Rich Holland, fishing and hunting content director for SmartEtailing.com holds up a nice Elevenmile Reservoir cutthroat trout. Photo by Lew Carpenter

Urgent Action Needed to Protect America’s Outdoor Heritage

America’s coldwater fish habitat could decline by 50 percent within the lifetime of a child born today thanks to climate change, according to a new report released today by the National Wildlife Federation. Swimming Upstream: Freshwater Fish in a Warming World details how climate change is warming lakes, rivers and streams and making existing stresses worse, creating an uncertain future for America’s freshwater fishing traditions and the jobs that depend on them.

“More extreme heat and drought are already causing big problems for fish that rely on cold, clean water – and the warming we’ve seen so far is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Doug Inkley, National Wildlife Federation senior scientist and one of the lead authors of Swimming Upstream. “We can protect America’s outdoor heritage, but only if we act now to cut industrial carbon pollution, invest in clean energy, and make communities and habitats more resilient to the impacts of climate change.”

Climate change is warming our lakes, rivers and streams causing:

· Habitat loss for many cold-water species

· Exacerbation of existing stressors, such as habitat loss, polluted water, invasive species and
disease

· Increased competition from warm-water species

“Temperature increases of even a few degrees can have dramatic impacts, harming iconic game fish like salmon, trout and walleye and giving a leg up to destructive invaders like sea lamprey,” said Jack Williams, Trout Unlimited senior scientist and one of the lead authors of Swimming Upstream. “We need to manage our water resources in a way that ensures that both people and fish have the clean, cool, and abundant water they need to survive.”

Climate change is affecting seasonal patterns and loading the dice for extreme weather:

· Warmer, shorter winters with less snow and ice cover can shift stream flows and water
availability in the spring and summer. Reduced ice cover also means many lakes are too thin
for safe ice fishing, a popular recreation in many northern locales.

· More extreme weather events —especially more intense droughts, heat waves and wildfires
— can increase fish mortality.

· More frequent droughts reduce stream flows and kill streamside vegetation which helps to cool streams. Less water during droughts reduces available habitat and the remaining water warms faster, leaving fewer cool or cold-water refuges for fish.

“Here in North Carolina, fishing is a critical economic driver. More than a million anglers spent over $574 million on freshwater fishing in 2011,” said Kelly Darden, North Carolina Wildlife Federation board member. “For North Carolina sportsmen, it’s not about politics. It’s about a simple question: What’s your plan to confront climate change and protect our outdoor heritage?”

Swimming Upstream outlines actions needed to address climate change and ensure a thriving fishing tradition. To confront the climate crisis’ threats to fish, wildlife and communities we must:

· Address the underlying cause and cut carbon pollution 50 percent by 2030.
· Transition to cleaner, more secure sources of energy like offshore wind, solar power and
next-generation biofuels while avoiding dirty energy choices like coal and tar sands oil.
· Safeguard wildlife and their habitats by promoting climate-smart approaches to conservation.
· Help communities prepare for and respond to the impacts of climate change such as rising
sea levels, more extreme weather, and more severe droughts.

“Sportsmen are on the front lines of conservation. They’re already seeing changes where they fish and they know we can’t leave this problem for our children and grandchildren to deal with,” said Larry Schweiger, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “We need action on the local, state and federal levels to cut industrial carbon pollution, invest in clean energy, and make communities and habitats more resilient to the impacts of climate change. President Obama’s plan to act on climate is a major step in the right direction.”

Read the report at NWF.org/FishAndClimate.

More of NWF’s reports connecting the dots between climate change and extreme weather are available at NWF.org/ExtremeWeather. Get more National Wildlife Federation news at NWF.org/News.

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Lander, WY (January 30, 2013) – Carbon pollution from coal-burning power plants, refineries, and vehicles is causing a warming climate that poses the single most urgent threat to the future of America’s rich community of fish and game. Hunters and anglers, who return to the

Medicine Bow Mountains, Wyoming. Photo: Lew Carpenter

Medicine Bow Mountains, Wyoming. Photo: Lew Carpenter

same grounds yearly, have been some of the first to see on the ground impacts of climate change and understand the need to act now. How we address the challenges of global climate change now will dictate the sporting opportunities for future generations of wildlife conservationists.

The National Wildlife Federation today releasd a new report important to sportsmen from all corners of the nation. Wildlife in a Warming World: Confronting the Climate Crisis examines case studies from across the country illustrating how climate change is altering wildlife habitats. It recommends solutions that would protect not just wildlife but communities across America from the growing climate-fueled threats such as sea level rise, wildfires and drought.

Many of America’s iconic game species face the risks of climate change, such as the northern bobwhite, brook trout, pintail, moose, sage grouse, lesser scaup, and many more. The dangers include:
* Increased incidence of extreme weather events including drought, flooding, warming winters and catastrophic fires that drastically alter and destroy habitat.
*Sea level rise of up to two feet, threatening people in heavily-populated coastal communities and wildlife-rich coastal habitats, such as the Chesapeake Bay, Coastal Florida and the Pacific Northwest.
*Major declines and extinctions in coldwater fish such as trout and salmon as water temperatures rise
*Substantial declines in estuaries and wetlands
*Changes in habitat, food sources and migration patterns for America’s waterfowl, particularly in the prairie pothole region.

The National Wildlife Federation report covers eight regions of the U.S., from the Arctic to the Atlantic coast, and details concrete examples of wildlife struggling to adapt to the climate crisis:
*Wyoming’s worst fire season in history, which decimated 560,000 acres and included 1,400 fires.
*Climate change is creating conditions fueling more mega-wildfires, which are having devastating impacts on fish and wildlife habitats and are putting people and property in harm’s way. Meanwhile, more intense droughts in places like the Great Plains dry up “prairie potholes,” breeding grounds for millions of waterfowl, and impacts drinking water supplies.

The impacts of climate change not only affect the wildlife and habitat that sportsmen hold sacred, but have real economic impacts related to these activities. “Sportsmen and women are an economic force,” according to a new Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) report, America’s Sporting Heritage: Fueling the American Economy. “The $90 billion they spent in 2011 would land them at #24 on the Fortune 500 list…From boats to shotguns to land purchased for a place to hunt or fish, on average each sportsman and woman spent $2,407 that year.”

With more and more places impacted by climate change these very real numbers are in jeopardy. Add conservation dollars from the excise taxes on equipment, fuel and fees for licenses and stamps along with “generous support of conservation organizations through memberships and contributions and you’re looking at another $3 billion for conservation over the course of a year,” the CSF report states.

The National Wildlife Federation report Wildlife in a Warming World: Confronting the Climate Crisis recommends a four-pronged attack to confront the climate crisis’ threats to wildlife and communities:
*Address the underlying cause and cut carbon pollution 50 percent by 2030;
*Transition to cleaner, more secure sources of energy like solar power, wind and next-generation biofuels while avoiding dirty energy choices like coal and tar sands oil
*Safeguard wildlife and their habitats by promoting climate-smart approaches to conservation.
*Help communities prepare for and respond to the impacts of climate change such as wildfires, more extreme weather, and more severe droughts.

“We know what’s causing the climate changes sportsmen are seeing in the field and we have the solutions to secure our climate and safeguard our wildlife for future generations,” said Lew Carpenter, regional representative for the National Wildlife Federation.“What we need is the political leadership to make smart energy choices and wise investments in protecting our natural resources.”

Read the report here. Get more National Wildlife Federation news at NWF.org/News.

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The National Wildlife Federation is America’s largest conservation organization inspiring Americans to protect wildlife for our children’s future.

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