Advancing Climate Resilience Across America

Snow covered mountains and evergreens reflected in a lake

The Department of the Interior manages 20 percent of the nation’s lands; supplies water and hydropower across the West; conserves ecosystems; preserves historic and cultural resources; provides up-to-date science; fulfills special commitments to American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, and affiliated island communities; and manages renewable and nonrenewable energy and mineral development on public lands and the Outer Continental Shelf. 

For the Department to maintain its commitments to employees and the communities they serve, it must identify and adapt to new threats. At the beginning of his Administration, President Biden tasked agencies with leading whole-of-government efforts to address climate change through Executive Order 14008, Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad. Federal agencies released initial Climate Adaptation Plans in 2021 and progress reports outlining advancements toward achieving their adaptation goals in 2022.    

Today, the Department of the Interior joined more than 20 federal agencies to release updated Climate Action Plans, which will guide our actions to prepare for and adapt to climate change in the coming years. This work advances the Biden-Harris administration’s National Climate Resilience Framework, which helps to align climate resilience investments across the public and private sector through common principles and opportunities for action to build a climate-resilient nation.  

The Department’s Plan provides guidance in two key ways: First, it includes a risk assessment, which uses historical data and future projections to measure Department exposure to the impacts of climate change. It also includes an implementation plan that describes how the Department will build on recent actions to address climate hazards in the years to come. 

Some key risks include extreme weather, ecosystem degradation and sea-level rise. The Department has already begun to implement strategies to address these novel threats, with help from President Biden’s Investing in America agenda. 

Rocky cliffs surrounding river showing water levels.

Extreme Weather 

On Interior-managed lands, the 2024 report predicts the threat of extreme weather brought on by the climate crisis will worsen. For instance, it found that: 

  • Nearly every Department building and employee will be exposed to more frequent extreme heat in the future. 
  • Flood potential and safety hazards for visitors and staff will continue to increase.  
  • Roughly 1 in 4 Interior-managed buildings and hundreds of millions of acres of lands are at risk of severe wildfire damage. 

To help mitigate extreme weather risk and develop climate resilience, the Department continues to deploy historic resources from the President’s Investing in America agenda. For example, historic drought - worsened by the climate crisis - has engulfed the Western United States for decades.  

Since the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law was signed in November 2021, unprecedented federal action from the Biden-Harris administration to save water resources that millions of people rely on for sustenance and power has ensued. The Department’s Bureau of Reclamation is investing a total of $8.3 billion over five years for water infrastructure projects and has already announced more than $4.1 billion for more than 537 projects. The Inflation Reduction Act provides an additional $4.6 billion to strengthen drought resilience across the West.   

These efforts have already helped stave off the immediate collapse of the Colorado River system, which provides water for more than 40 million people, fuels hydropower resources in seven U.S. states, is a crucial resource for 30 Tribal Nations and two states in Mexico and supports 5.5 million acres of agriculture and agricultural communities across the West. The Department is now working with states, Tribes and other parties to ensure the long-term viability of the river that is the lifeblood of the American West. 

Secretary Haaland signing document at a table with others standing behind her.

Ecosystem Degradation  

Climate change presents a growing threat to America’s fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats; as a result, the threatened, endangered, and extinct species lists is expected to grow.  

President Biden’s Investing in America agenda contains $2 billion for community-led, partnership driven ecosystem restoration and nature-based solutions to protect people, plants and animals from climate related threats. The Department has taken steps to ensure this funding makes a difference for lands, waters, wildlife and the communities that rely on them, including by launching the Restoration and Resilience Framework. The framework, through nine Keystone Initiatives, supports coordination across agencies and programs to drive transformational outcomes with strategic investments that improve degraded lands and waters, as well as advance climate resilience. 

While environmental degradation continues to negatively impact communities and Interior-managed lands, the Department is leading the way to address this risk by providing the best available science to guide policy, strengthening partnerships to work in the right places and at appropriate scales to adapt to climate change, and shaping the next generation of climate leaders through initiatives, such as the Indian Youth Service Corps.  

Foggy narrow pathway leading to pacific coastline.

Sea Level Rise

Sea level rise will affect hundreds of Interior-managed sites, from national parks and wildlife refuges to historic sites, and is projected to inundate hundreds of the Department’s buildings and threaten many more by placing them at greater risk to future storms. 

This threat has already disproportionately impacted Tribal communities in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest. 

In response, the Department launched the Voluntary Community-Driven Relocation Program in 2022 with an initial $135 million commitment to advance relocation and planning efforts for Tribal communities severely impacted by climate-related environmental threats. The program is in addition to an overall $440 million investment for Tribal climate resilience programs through the President’s Investing in America agenda. The Department also serves as co-chair of the White House National Climate Task Force’s Community-Driven Relocation Subcommittee, which convenes agencies to explore key considerations, issues and strategies for working in partnership with communities to support voluntary movement away from high-risk regions.