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Recently Announced Federal Plan Helps Wildlife Adapt to Climate Change

First Posted: Mar 27, 2013 09:57 AM EDT
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Wildlife suffering from climate change could be getting some help from the federal government. On Tuesday, the Obama administration announced a nationwide plan to help fish, wildlife and plant resources adapt to our changing planet.

The plan, which was developed in response to a request by Congress, is called the National Fish, Wildlife and Climate Adaptation Strategy. It's the result of an extensive, national dialogue that spanned nearly two years and was created through the comments from more than 55,000 Americans. Essentially a roadmap of key steps that need to be taken, the plan covers priorities for the next five years and will hopefully help mitigate the expected impacts of climate change.

Climate change is already impacting the United States, according to the plan. Oyster larvae are struggling off the Northwest coast while Atlantic fish are migrating further north into deeper waters. Flowers are blooming earlier, geese and ducks aren't flying as far south, and melting Arctic sea ice is causing more extreme weather patterns that could alter ecosystems even further.

The current plan is partly in response to the threats to the U.S. economy through the loss of wildlife resources. Hunting, fishing and other wildlife-related recreation contributes an estimated $120 billion to the nation's economy each year. In addition, the U.S. seafood industry supports approximately 1 million jobs and a whopping $116 billion in economic activity annually, according to USA Today.

This new plan may be the biggest of its kind thus far, but it's not a new idea. The federal government has already stepped in to protect natural resources from climate change. Ranchers and farmers are paid to remove land from production and instead create wildlife refuges. The lesser prairie chicken in the Great Plains, which faces threats from a 5-degree rise in temperature by 2060, has also received aid, according to the LA Times.

"Rising sea levels, warming temperatures, loss of sea ice and changing precipitation patterns--trends scientists have connected to climate change--are already affecting the species that we care about, the services we value, and the places we call home," said Deputy Secretary of the Interior David J. Hayes, according to Alaska Native News. "The Strategy is a comprehensive, multi-partner response that takes a  21st century approach developed by the American public for sustaining fish, wildlife and plant resources and the services they provide-now and into the future."

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