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© Don Jacobson

Cascadia

Threats to Cascadia

Climate Change

Cascadia is already feeling the impacts of climate change on habitat, precipitation, forest fires, agriculture and recreation across the region. Prolonged droughts, intensified wildfire seasons, and warming temperatures on land in water are just a few observable impacts that threaten wildlife. Habitats will change and some species may not be able to modify their behaviors in response. Species that depend on significant amounts of snow, such as wolverines and Canada lynx, will likely end up with less habitat available to them. Stream flows are expected to decline and water temperatures will warm, impacting cold water-loving species such as bull trout. 

Energy Development

The response to climate change has been a push for increased and expedited renewable energy development throughout Cascadia. Defenders supports the movement to a clean energy future, but advocates for a Smart From the Start approach that sites energy development where it will have the least impact to wildlife. Approved solar array projects throughout the region have already resulted in significantly reduced and fragmented habitat for sage grouse and other sensitive species. Continued development in the coming years has the potential to impair or eliminate hundreds of thousands of acres of occupied or suitable habitat. Wind energy development threatens golden eagles and other raptors that collide with turbines. And bats are at serious risk from both collisions and air pressure damage from spinning turbine blades.

Predators in Peril

Wolves throughout Cascadia are on the rebound, but are under continued threat from special interests that would see protections for them reduced to allow hunting and keep their population artificially low. Grizzly populations are slowly recovering in some parts of the region, but are still largely absent in their historic ranges in Washington and Oregon. Smaller predators like Canada lynx, wolverine and fisher have benefitted from conservation and restoration efforts, but face ongoing threats from habitat loss, climate change and other human-related activities. 

Expanding Human Activity

Cascadia is a paradise for outdoor recreationists of all kinds, and the region’s plentiful natural resources make it a desirable place to live. Expanding human populations and development are encroaching on forested and floodplain habitat. This leads to more human-wildlife encounters and conflicts. Road construction has fragmented critical habitat for wildlife, creating barriers to wildlife movement. Urban development in and around cities like Seattle increases the amount of polluted stormwater runoff impacting the Salish Sea and its wildlife.

Forestry

The West Cascades ecoregion does support populations of several large predators. It is largely in federal ownership, but effective management of national forest lands under declining federal budgets presents significant challenges. There is constant pressure to increase timber harvest on federal lands to support local government.  Other threats include dams, private forestry and invasive species.   

In the East Cascades ecoregion threats include competition for limited water supplies, especially in the Deschutes and Klamath basins; invasive species, both terrestrial and aquatic; and a variety of issues related to climate change.  Development pressures also exist in some portions of the region. Because real estate values are relatively high, traditional funding sources are inadequate to address conservation needs. The North Cascades offer the best opportunity for secure populations of large predators, including wolves and grizzlies. Threats include direct wildlife mortality, lack of tolerance for predators, federal policy changes, lack of political will.