Department of Interior launches Climate Change Response Strategy

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today launched the Department of the Interior’s “first-ever coordinated strategy to address current and future impacts of climate change on America’s land, water, ocean, fish, wildlife, and cultural resources.”

“Across the country, Americans are experiencing first-hand the impacts of climate change, from growing pressure on water supplies to more intense droughts and fires to rampant bark beetle infestations,” said Salazar. “Because Interior manages one-fifth of our nation’s landmass and 1.7 billion acres on the Outer Continental Shelf it is imperative that we tackle these impacts of a failed and outdated energy policy. This secretarial order is another milestone in our continuing effort to change how Interior does business to respond to the energy and climate challenges of our time.”

The secretarial order signed today at Interior’s command center establishes a framework through which Interior bureaus will coordinate climate change science and resource management strategies. Under the framework:

  • A new Climate Change Response Council, led by the Secretary, Deputy Secretary and Counselor, will coordinate DOI’s response to the impacts of climate change within and among the Interior bureaus and will work to improve the sharing and communication of climate change impact science, including through;
  • Eight DOI regional Climate Change Response Centers, serving Alaska, the Northeast, the Southeast, the Southwest, the Midwest, the West, Northwest, and Pacific regions — will synthesize existing climate change impact data and management strategies, help resource managers put them into action on the ground, and engage the public through education initiatives; and
  • A network of Landscape Conservation Cooperatives will engage DOI and federal agencies, local and state partners, and the public to craft practical, landscape-level strategies for managing climate change impacts within the eight regions. The cooperatives will focus on impacts such as the effects of climate change on wildlife migration patterns, wildfire risk, drought, or invasive species that typically extend beyond the borders of any single National Wildlife Refuge, BLM unit, or National Park.

Center for American Progress CEO John Podesta released the following statement:

“We applaud Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s directive that Interior Department agencies develop coordinated strategies to address the many challenges posed by global climate change. With management responsibility for hundreds of millions of acres of public lands, rivers and offshore energy development, the Department of Interior has a unique opportunity to monitor, report and respond to the impacts of global warming on the nation’s air, land, water, trees and wildlife. Better coordination among Interior Department agencies with responsibility for water, energy development, parks, rangeland and fish and wildlife, and endangered species will go a long way to ensuring that the federal government’s response to climate change is cohesive and reflects the best available science. In many respects the American West is ground zero for the impacts of climate change. Already the region suffers from prolonged drought, reduced water supplies, more wildfires and invasive species, and more serious impacts lie ahead. By making climate change mitigation and adaptation a priority now, Interior will be able to not just better protect landscapes and resources that are precious to all Americans, but serve as an effective advocate for a rapid transition to a low carbon economy.”