State Launches Wildlife Climate Action Tool
The Massachusetts Climate Adaptation Partnership - a diverse team of experts from the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, the Department of the Interior's Northeast Climate Science Center, and the USGS Massachusetts Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit unveiled the Massachusetts Wildlife Climate Action Tool this week. It is an online tool for local decision-makers, conservation managers, land trusts, regional planners, landowners, and community leaders in Massachusetts who are interested in taking action in response to climate change. A webinar about the Climate Action Tool will be held on Wednesday, December 2, 2015 at 3:30 P.M. and interested users are invited to attend.

Massachusetts Wildlife Climate Action Tool users can access information on climate change impacts and the vulnerabilities of various fish and wildlife and their habitats. The tool also allows users to explore adaptation strategies and actions to help maintain healthy, resilient natural communities in the face of climate change based on their location and area of interest.

"While there is an overwhelming amount of information on climate change, it is often not easily accessible to the public and it can be challenging to incorporate scientific information into day-to-day management and planning," says John O'Leary, Assistant Director of Wildlife with the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. "The Climate Action Tool focuses on what people can do now to reduce climate change impacts on natural resources such as fish, wildlife, and their habitats, in the coming decades. Users can access information and data from the scientific literature that have been synthesized by scientists for the tool."

The tool synthesizes the best available science on climate change, including:
  • climate change impacts, with projections for over 30 climate variables,
  • vulnerability assessments for fish and wildlife species and their habitats,
  • information about non-climate stressors such as development and loss of landscape connectivity that must be accounted for, and
  • on-the-ground actions including forestry practices, land protection, and restoring landscape connectivity.
Michelle Staudinger, an ecologist with the USGS and adjunct faculty member in the Department of Environmental Conservation at UMass Amherst, says the climate is changing rapidly in Massachusetts in ways that are already impacting human and natural communities statewide. "There are actions we can take now to adapt to climate change and protect fish, wildlife and their habitats, as well as help human communities increase resiliency to better cope with these changes," she points out. "This tool is designed to inform and inspire local action to protect the Commonwealth's natural resources, including species of greatest conservation need, and help them adapt to a changing climate."

"This tool makes science available to inform on-the-ground action. The information provided is research-based and vetted by scientists," says Scott Jackson, Extension Associate Professor in the Department of Conservation at UMass Amherst. "The tool provides adaptation information that can be integrated into a comprehensive climate adaptation plan for an organization or community, including local actions related to land protection, forestry practices, and connectivity across roads and highways. It provides links to relevant resources and experts who can offer additional information and assistance in implementing actions, such as replacing a culvert or conserving land."

"We need up-to-date information and guidance about how we can help our 19 communities adapt to climate change, so we are thrilled to discover the Massachusetts Climate Action Tool," says Robert A. Jonas, Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Kestrel Land Trust. "In one online package, we can research climate change impacts on fish and wildlife species, forests and forestry practices, landscape connectivity, land protection and conservation planning."

Although this tool was designed for decision-making in the state of Massachusetts, it provides broadly relevant climate and adaptation information, and can serve as a model for related efforts across the entire Northeast region. The developers point out that the tool is dynamic, allowing them to add new information as climate science improves and as new adaptation actions are developed in the field. Future updates will include more case studies and actions related to transportation and infrastructure, public health and safety, coastal areas, and municipal land use planning.
John O'Leary, 508/389-6359;
Janet Lathrop, 413/545-0444;
Scott Jackson, 413/545-4358;
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