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Colorado demonstrates responsive, action-oriented approach to climate change, gains national attention with award. 

DENVER – Colorado’s latest State Wildlife Action plan now includes an assessment of how key habitat types could be impacted by a changing climate – and the collaborative effort that produced the analysis has received a national award.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) and Colorado’s Natural Heritage Program (CNHP), in collaboration with the Department of the Interior North Central Climate Science Center (NC CSC), were awarded an honorable mention in the 2016 Climate Adaptation Leadership Awards for their efforts to incorporate the consideration of climate change in Colorado’s 2016 State Wildlife Action Plan.

The award was announced today by the National Fish, Wildlife and Plant Climate Adaptation Strategy’s Joint Implementation Working Group.

State Wildlife Action Plans (SWAPs) are important documents, revised every 10 years, that identify priority species and habitats that need conservation efforts in the state and lay out potential conservation actions that can address threats to these species and habitats.

“Colorado’s SWAP is a vital conservation planning tool for resource and land managers,” said Reid DeWalt, CPW’s assistant director of Wildlife and Natural Resources. “By incorporating climate change into our revised plan, we are ensuring that we are working with the most up-to-date and scientifically sound information to help conserve our wildlife resources now and into the future.”

Eric Odell (CPW) and Lee Grunau (CNHP) discuss how different environmental factors affect ecosystem model results, as shown on the Viswall in the Resource for Advanced Modeling (RAM).

The collaborative effort to update Colorado’s SWAP included a rigorous and scientifically based climate change impact analysis of habitat for the state’s wildlife resources. The NC CSC contributed additional expertise and resources to help shed light on how climate is predicted to affect habitats in the future.  Through this collaboration, CPW and CNHP were also able to make use of an innovative collaborative workspace -- the U.S. Geological Survey’s Resource for Advanced Modeling facility, which allows users to visualize potential future scenarios for wildlife and habitat. “CNHP was delighted to serve as a bridge bringing wildlife experts and climate scientists together in our work to improve the SWAP” said CNHP director David Anderson. “We expect that the partnerships arising from this effort will continue to benefit conservation in Colorado for years to come.”

The combined effort to update the SWAP by state, federal and university employees used the best available science to incorporate climate information into the action plan that will guide Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the people of Colorado as the plan is used to inform future conservation decisions and actions.

“The open communication and collaboration between the three groups allowed us, collectively, to refine project objectives and methods, and, through these refinements, co-produce a more credible, salient, and legitimate end product”, said Dr. Jeff Morisette, director of the North Central Climate Science Center.

Of 47 nominations for these awards, seven recipients and seven honorable mentions were recognized for their outstanding leadership in advancing adaptation of the nation’s valuable fish, wildlife and plant resources in a changing climate. The Climate Adaptation Leadership Award was established as part of the Obama Administration's Priority Agenda for Enhancing the Climate Resilience of America’s Natural Resources, which identified key actions across the federal government to support resilience of America’s vital natural resources and the many people, businesses and communities that depend on them.

The award is sponsored by the National Fish, Wildlife, and Plant Climate Adaptation Strategy’s Joint Implementation Working Group in partnership with the Department of the Interior, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, USDA’s National Resource Conservation Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Forest Service, and the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.

The rigorous inclusion of climate impacts in the SWAP was specifically called for in the Colorado Climate Plan. The Colorado SWAP was approved March 30 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

This year, 2016, marks the first year of Climate Adaption Leadership Awards for Natural Resource recipients. For more information about the awards, including the other recipients and honorable mentions, please visit the Climate Adaptation Leadership Award website.

The Department of the Interior North Central Climate Science Center is managed by the U.S. Geological Survey and hosted by Colorado State University. The center is one of eight that provides scientific information to help natural resource managers respond effectively to climate change.

Photo: Main image of sandsage ecological system courtesy of Renée Rondeau, CNHP.


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