On the Front Lines of Climate Change

Today, hunters and anglers find themselves facing the impacts of climate change.

And they are ready to act.

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Today, hunters and anglers find themselves on the front lines of climate change. This poses an immediate and specific threat to hunting and fishing in America, challenging the future of outdoor recreation and the opportunities we leave to future generations.

We are witnessing firsthand the impacts from a changing climate: More extreme weather patterns, increasingly devastating wildfires, and prolonged drought. In addition to the human toll, these shifts have led to changes in fish and wildlife migration patterns, altered breeding seasons, shifts in home ranges, and loss of habitat. Climate change threatens to destroy our outdoor heritage and the annual $200 billion hunting and fishing economy and $778 billion outdoor recreation economy.

We believe it is time for Congress to take action and address key causes of climate change.

Impacts are being documented nationwide.  Eastern native brook trout are showing evidence of climate impacts, with delayed fall spawn-timing and fewer redds being constructed as temperatures increase. A recent study of pink salmon in Alaska documents that average migration time is almost two weeks earlier than 40 years ago. Across the West, Cutthroat trout are expected to lose more than 50% of their remaining habitat by 2080.

Ask Congress to Take Decisive Action

Filling out our form will help us urge our elected leaders to adopt commonsense land and water-based solutions to mitigate the impacts of climate change, and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

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Field Notes

Use #TUclimate to tell us what’s happening in your backyard

Hunters and anglers are skilled at reading nature. When climate changes the places they know best, they are the first to notice. Send us your observations on social media by using the hashtag #TUclimate

“In the West where the mountains are high, the water runs clear, and the skies can be seen for miles, the impacts of a worsening fire season coupled with drought adds to the stress freshwater ecosystems faces. The biggest threats to some of the most prized rivers in the country in Yellowstone comes from low snow-fall during the winter months, run-off occurring the first two weeks of June, higher water temperatures, intense fires, and the added stress of many people cramming to find a spot on a short stretch of river during peak afternoon. The native cutthroat trout are diminishing alongside with their food source, macroinvertebrates, which are drying up from low water levels. Climate change is not a myth and the impacts and everyday changes are facing us head-on and evident within our local and global ecosystem. Now is the time to step up, hold local politicians accountable to enact regulations with the future in mind, know when it’s time to walk away for the day from the water, and raise your voice to help advocate and educate for our local watersheds.

Anna Le

Aquatic Biologist, Yellowstone National Park

In Arizona, sportsmen and women are witnessing the direct effects of a warming climate: decreasing snowpack, reducing perennial streams to intermittent, and increasing severity and duration of wildfire season. All of these factors introduce stress to our ecosystems and wildlife. This year has continued to break climate change records in Arizona. Sportsmen’s groups have helped the Game and Fish department extensively with relocating fish higher upstream and hauling water to animal drinkers. Our groups work hard to complete on-the-ground restoration projects, but there is a need for leadership at the federal level to support larger-scale projects. Now more than ever, Congress needs to focus on passing common sense climate legislation.

Nate Rees

Arizona, New Mexico Coordinator, Trout Unlimited

As a sportsperson and angler that dedicates my career and personal time to conserving our public lands and waters here in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, there’s no denying that the effects of climate change are taking a rapid toll on our landscapes and aquatic ecosystems. A combination of reduced seasonal flows, periods of drought, and exponential rain events causing flooding have become more and more frequent in recent years. Increasing temperatures in the summer seasons have led to weeks at a time of choosing not to wade the rivers and streams in order to let trout and other fish rest for their best chance of survival. One river I’ve enjoyed fly fishing recently, the Cedar River, has fluctuated in both temperature and flow in a way that has stressed current fish populations, altered or destroyed important habitat or presented passage barriers where there weren’t prior. With the support of organizations like TU and partners dedicated to taking on restoration projects and taking preventative measures to ensure the long term health of these aquatic ecosystems, I’m hopeful that we can conserve these water resources and the recreational opportunities that come with them sustainably moving forward.

Sarah Topp

Guide, Upper Peninsula, Michigan

The Problem

The most recent decade was the nation’s warmest on record

Air temperatures around the globe have increased significantly in recent years. The U.S. is no exception to these trends. U.S. average temperature has increased by 1.3°F to 1.9°F since record keeping began in 1895. The most recent decade was the nation’s warmest on record.

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Measurable Impacts on Coldwater Fish

Impacts are being documented nationwide.  Eastern native brook trout are showing evidence of climate impacts, with delayed fall spawn-timing and fewer redds being constructed as temperatures increase. A recent study of pink salmon in Alaska documents that average migration time is almost two weeks earlier than 40 years ago. Across the West, Cutthroat trout are expected to lose more than 50% of their remaining habitat by 2080.

Worsening Drought

For many parts of the western U.S., drought and increasing air temperature are spelling trouble for trout.  Many rivers like the Madison in Montana approach stressful temperatures more frequently. Habitat for the Rio Grande cutthroat trout is being hit particularly hard by drought in Colorado and New Mexico.

Accelerated Melting

Glaciers are disappearing across the West, and with them, the cold meltwater on which native trout such as bull trout and Westslope cutthroat depend. At the current melt rate, glaciers will have disappeared from Glacier National Park by 2030, directly affecting downstream fisheries. 

Intensifying Fire

Since the mid-1980s as forests have dried and tree mortality has increased, there has been a marked increase in the duration and intensity of wildfires in the western U.S. While fire is a natural part of the western ecosystem in which fish have evolved, populations already affected by multiple human-induced stressors (barriers to movement, degraded habitats, non-native species) are less equipped to handle intense wildfires.  As just one of many examples, the 2012 Whitewater Baldy Fire Complex roared through the core of remaining Gila trout habitat in New Mexico, destroying several populations.   

As a woman privileged to spend time as both an angler and a guide on the waters of Southwestern Colorado, I join others in expressing the true impacts of climate change that are evident and devastating. A couple of the biggest threats to my most loved rivers in recent years have been large fires and reduced seasonal flows. Living with the anxiety of what these threats mean to the health of our aquatic ecosystems and local communities has sadly become the new norm as we see more mellow winters and increasing temperatures. As we face the realities of climate change, the “ignorance is bliss” approach is not an option. We must all stand up together to address it and reduce future losses. Luckily, we share our sport and passion with many educated and driven individuals. I strive to learn from them about all the ways in which I can help, and I look forward to working alongside TU and others in doing so.

Bailey Conaty

Guide, Durango, CO

With ever-intensifying fire seasons in Utah and the measured impacts of climate change on longer and hotter fire seasons, healthy and resilient landscapes are among the most critical tools to mitigate the threat of catastrophic wildfire in the Beehive State. Now is the time to join the growing chorus of hunters and anglers who are calling on Congress, EPA, and the states for much stronger action to address the harmful impacts of climate change.

Andy Rasmussen

Utah Field Coordinator, Trout Unlimited

The Solution

Conserve, Support, and Invest in evidence-based climate solutions

The longer we delay taking meaningful steps to reduce climate pollution, the more serious the harmful impacts will be to our outdoor traditions, including fishing and hunting. Action is needed now for the benefit of people, wildlife, and habitat. To mitigate the effects of climate change and preserve our ability to enjoy the outdoors, we must call on our leaders and communities to act.

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Safeguard Wildlife & Habitat from Climate Change

Healthy ecosystems are more resilient to the potential effects of climate change. Management to reduce other stressors such as water pollution, extreme flooding caused by runoff from impervious surfaces and agricultural areas, invasive species, and habitat fragmentation has great potential to reduce the effects of a changing climate. In aquatic systems, increasing habitat connectivity by fixing culverts and increasing in-stream flows, allows fish and wildlife to move to better habitat to sustain themselves.

Expand National Conservation Investment for Fish & Wildlife

Greater funding will enable agencies to better manage species and the habitats they depend upon in the face of the stresses caused by climate change, saving both wildlife and taxpayer dollars from costly recovery efforts. Funding should target projects that have multiple benefits, such as those that increase the health of floodplains to reduce flooding in communities while improving or increasing access to fish and wildlife habitat. Funding should also focus on improving agriculture and forestry practices that substantially increase carbon sequestration in rural areas, helping farmers and foresters while increasing habitat and reducing climate change impacts.

Support the Reduction of Emissions in our Transportation & Energy Sectors

Congress, federal administrators, and state governments need hunters, anglers, and conservationists to speak up in support of measures that substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions through market-based and other solutions via implementation of federal and state-based clean energy solutions that are effective and offer a high return on investment.

Invest in Clean, Climate-Friendly Energy & Improve Energy Efficiency

We must transition to cleaner, more sustainable forms of energy. Oil, gas, coal and other fossil fuel development degrades and fragments habitat and exacerbates climate stressors for fish and wildlife. A serious effort to reduce climate pollution must include investing in clean, wildlife-friendly energy sources such as on- and offshore wind, solar, sustainable bioenergy, and geothermal.

Call on Congress to Take Decisive Action

Now is the time to join the growing chorus of hunters and anglers who are calling on Congress, EPA, and the states for decisive action to address the harmful impacts of climate change.

TAKE ACTION

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