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.

Urge Your Elected Leaders

Take Action

The Science is Clear

Climate change is real and we must take swift and decisive action to combat this ever-growing threat. We 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.

These actions will strengthen rural economies, benefit fish and wildlife, improve air quality, soil health, water quality and quantity, strengthen the outdoor recreation economy, and create more resilient communities.

FIELD NOTES

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 at jay.chancellor@tu.org.

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 headwaters state that gets 70% of its water from snowpack, Colorado can’t afford to waste any more time debating the impacts of climate change. The evidence is everywhere: shorter winters and accelerated snowmelt, longer and more severe droughts, intensifying fires from drying trees, warming waters and loss of fish and wildlife habitat. We’ve endured the largest wildfire in state history this summer as well as the largest wildfire ever in the White River National Forest, a place formerly known as the “asbestos forest” because its high elevation and deep snows insulated it from fire. But those days are gone, cut short by earlier springs and longer, hotter summers that are taking a toll not just on Colorado, but also on surrounding states that depend on our snowmelt flowing downstream. Likewise, we’ve moved past the time for discussion. Now it’s time for action. That means dedicating the resources required to enhance our ecosystems, reduce carbon emissions and invest in clean, efficient climate-friendly energy. An investment in conservation is an investment in the future of Colorado. It’s clear that we can no longer afford to wait.

Scott Willoughby

North Colorado Field Organizer, Trout Unlimited

Idaho’s climate is changing. Over the past century, most of the state has warmed one to two degrees. Snowpack is melting earlier in the year, and the flow of meltwater into streams during the summer is declining. In the coming decades, streams will be warmer, populations of several fish species may decline, wildfires may be more common, deserts may expand, and water may be less available for irrigation.

While not a coastal state, Idaho has a unique connection to warming sea temperatures. Salmon and steelhead that migrate hundreds of miles and live part of their life in the ocean are affected by low ocean food productivity caused by increased ocean temperatures. Not to mention increased stream temperatures along their voyage home.

Agricultural demands in-state have led to more and larger water storage facilities. While Trout Unlimited is not opposed to water storage, there can be challenges to fish migration and spawning when trying to move large amounts of water from high elevation reservoirs to farm fields where it is needed. Less water in general has also put the pinch on municipal water supplies. TU is working with agricultural interests and other partners on projects that upgrade water delivery infrastructure that create water savings and lessen the need for more stored water.

Idaho is fortunate to have some of the wildest, high elevation coldwater habitat left in the US. Climate change modeling has shown this habitat to be important coldwater refugia for native stocks of bull trout, cutthroat and other important fish species as the climate warms. The Idaho Roadless Rule and other protections help ensure this habitat will persist into the future. Staff in Idaho also engage directly with agencies and other partners in collaborative settings to help improve forest and rangeland health that will gird against future climate impacts.

Michael Gibson

Idaho Field Coordinator, Trout Unlmited

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 Problem

Rising Temperatures

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.

U.S. average temperature increase since 1895

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.   

Year the glaciers will disappear in Glacier National Park

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.     

Measurable Impact

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.

Cutthroat trout are expected to lose more than 50% of their remaining habitat by 2080

The Solution

Act

The Science is Clear

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:

Safeguard Wildlife and 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 Large-Scale 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.