June 3, 2013

Haley McKey

Last month we got some exciting news here at Defenders: our very own climate expert, Noah Matson, was selected to be a member of the Department of the Interior’s new Climate Change Advisory Committee!

This is an important step for the department.  Defenders has advocated for years that Interior agencies change their science and policy strategies to include climate change adaptation and assisted in their efforts to do so.  In a press release, recently appointed Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell emphasized that “responding to climate change and its effects on our natural and cultural resources is an important priority for the nation.”  It is indeed, and the formation of this committee is an encouraging sign that the federal government is taking climate change seriously.

red knot

Some migratory birds’ ranges are changing due to global warming.

So what will Noah be doing as a committee member?

“Members are tasked with identifying the key components of a strong, effective climate adaptation science strategy, and how to integrate those components into climate adaptation programs already in effect,” Noah says.  Specifically, the committee will advise the Secretary of the Interior on the operations of the National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center at the US Geological Survey’s headquarters, as well as eight new regional Department of the Interior Climate Science Centers.    “The question we’re trying to answer is: ‘how do we improve the way we manage our resources in the face of climate change’?”

There’s no doubt that our nation’s wildlife are responding to climate change: some migratory bird ranges are in flux, flowers are blooming earlier and ocean fish are retreating to deeper, cooler waters.  We simply cannot effectively conserve species without taking such changes into account.

In addition to science priorities, the committee will also advise the department on relations with key partners, such as state wildlife agencies, private landowners, tribes and others.  Working efficiently with partners is integral to Interior’s ability to coordinate with other climate adaptation initiatives, such as state-run wetland restoration or drought management programs.

Noah will be joined on the committee by members from a diverse number of organizations and institutions, including tribal, state and local governments, non-government organizations and the private sector.

This is a vital time for climate change policy and strategy.  The climate science center and the committee add a new dimension to our ability to protect our natural resources, help wildlife adapt to climate change and safeguard vulnerable communities.

The committee’s first meeting is expected to take place this fall.  Stay tuned as we follow Noah in his new and important role helping the Department of the Interior respond to climate change.

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