Climate Change

Climate change is affecting every corner of the American continent. It is making droughts drier and longer, floods more dangerous and hurricanes more severe.

The glaciers in Montana’s Glacier National Park are melting so quickly, they're expected to disappear in the next two decades. Rising seas are consuming the world’s first wildlife refuge – Florida’s Pelican Island – which President Teddy Roosevelt set aside in 1903. 

At the U.S. Department of the Interior, we manage one-fifth of the land in the country, 35,000 miles of coastline, and 1.76 billion acres of the Outer Continental Shelf. We also uphold the federal government’s trust responsibilities to 562 Indian tribes; conserve fish, wildlife and their habitats; manage water supplies for more than 30 million people; and protect the icons of our national heritage.

The impacts of climate change are forcing us to change how we manage these resources. Climate change may dramatically affect water supplies in certain watersheds, impact coastal wetlands and barrier islands, cause relocation of and stress on wildlife, increase wildland fires, further spread invasive species, and more.

We at Interior are taking the lead in protecting our nation's resources from these impacts and in managing our public lands to mitigate the effects of climate change. On Sept. 14, 2009, Secretary Salazar launched our first-ever coordinated strategy to address current and future impacts of climate change on America’s land, water, wildlife, cultural-heritage and tribal resources.

The secretarial order he signed establishes the following framework through which our bureaus will coordinate climate-change science and resource-management strategies:

  • A Climate Change Response Council — Under the leadership of secretary, deputy secretary and counselor, this council will coordinate our response to the impacts of climate change within and among our bureaus. It will also work to improve the sharing and communication of climate- change impact science, including through   
  • Eight DOI Regional Climate Science Centers — Serving Alaska, the Northeast, the Southeast, the Southwest, the Midwest, the West, Northwest, and Pacific regions these centers 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.

    CSCs are regional entities that extend from the National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center (NCCWSC), located at USGS headquarters.  The NCCWSC was established by Congress in 2008 to help deliver scientific and technical information to help resource managers cope with a changing climate.  Working in partnership with resource managers and scientists at national, regional, and landscape levels, the NCCWSC will:

    • Forecast fish and wildlife population and habitat changes in response to climate change.
    • Assess the vulnerability and risk of species and habitats to climate change.
    • Link models of physical climate change (such as temperature and precipitation) with models that predict ecological, habitat, and population responses.
    • Develop standardized approaches to monitoring and help link existing monitoring efforts to climate and ecological or biological response models. 

  • A Network of Landscape Conservation Cooperatives — These cooperatives will engage Interior and other 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. They 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, Bureau of Land Management unit, or national park.