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Tackling an Uncertain Future with Climate Scenario Planning

A new publication from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) illustrates that one way to make pro-active decisions in conservation and natural–resource planning today is to consider various scenarios that may unfold tomorrow. Conservation professionals face many challenges due to changes in climate, land use, invasive species, biodiversity, and more. These changes interact in complex ways and can result in unknowns that complicate natural resource decision-making.

To achieve desired conservation and land-use outcomes, tools are needed to cope with these uncertainties.Considering Multiple Futures: Scenario Planning to Address Uncertainty in Natural Resource Conservation, demonstrates that scenario planning is such a tool. The authors, Drs. Erika Rowland Climate Change Ecologist and Molly Cross Climate Change Adaptation Coordinator for the North America Program of WCS, with Holly Hartmann of University of Arizona, Tucson, illustrate that by providing managers with a look at how the future may unfold, and how to respond, scenario planning can inform decision-making in light of uncertainties to better manage risk and maintain flexibility.

Read the report here or visit our research pages to learn about WCS' current Climate Change Conservation Initiatives.


Protect Our Boreal Birds

The Adirondack Park is in the southern edge of the range for several species of boreal forest birds within eastern North America. The hauntsof these boreal specialists—cool, wet, sphagnum-draped bogs and swampy woods—are thought to be particularly vulnerable to climate change. A recent Viewpoint opinion editorial by Michale Glennon, the Adirondack Landscape Science Coordinator for WCS, overviews the importance of monitoring ecological systems to understand the health of habitats and the impacts of land use on wildlife conservation in our boreal forests.

Read the full opinion article here.

Learn more about WCS Adirondacks boreal birds conservation research here.


Yellowstone Grizzly Bears Are on the Rebound and Outbound

A recent opinion editorial by Jeff Burrell, WCS' Northern Rockies Program Coordinator, highlights conservation status of Yellowstone's Grizzly population. As the Greater Yellowstone grizzly bear population has increased, separation between grizzly bear island populations is shrinking and closing the population gap is within reach.

"The Greater Yellowstone grizzly bear delisting debate provides an opportunity to expand our vision for grizzly bear conservation. It is a chance to move beyond restoring separate island populations. Only by integrating and interconnecting protected areas, mixed-use public lands and (by voluntary actions) private lands can we achieve true grizzly bear conservation."

Read the full op-ed by Jeff Burrell.

Learn more about the Yellowstone and Northern Rockies Program wildlife conservation research at WCS.

WCS Applauds Department of the Interior’s 'Bison Report: Looking Forward'

The Department of the Interior released a comprehensive report on bison conservation and management that reaffirms the commitment to collaborate with states, tribes and other partners to promote the restoration of ranging bison on appropriate landscapes. In response, WCS issued a statement of support from Keith Aune, WCS' Bison Program Coordinator, lead spokesperson of the American Bison Society, and Chair of the IUCN Bison Specialist Group for North America:

“WCS, ABS, and the IUCN Bison Specialist Group applaud the bison conservation strategy outlined today by the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) in its Bison Report: Looking Forward that calls for restoration of bison to multijurisdictional landscapes. The proposal to restore and manage bison at scales where they can fulfill their ecological role as a keystone herbivore has positive implications for biodiversity, and in particular, for maintaining the ecosystem health of imperiled U.S. grasslands."

Read the full WCS statement of support, the DOI press release and other press on this topic.


Integrating the Human Dimensions of Wildlife Conservation Science

A new publication called "Moving Beyond Science to Protect a Mammalian Migration Corridor," by Joel Berger of WCS and the University of Montana (Missoula) and Steve Cain of Grand Teton National Park (Grand Teton, Wyoming), shows that while science plays a critical role in informing conservation action, scientists must move beyond the realm of their expertise into less familiar areas like public relations, education, and even politics, to ultimately meet America's conservation goals. The paper highlights the  pronghorn migration case study that resulted in the federal designation of Wyoming's Path of the Pronghorn (POP) migration corridor. The mandated protection for the 93-mile route of the POP was established by advocating the scientific evidence of its necessity, as well as the ecological, historical, and cultural relevance of the migration path. The act of engaging the public ultimately lead to the success of the POP, as explained by Dr. Joel Berger in a recent press release: "We chose this project as a case study to show that science alone cannot achieve real world outcomes and that conservation is the provenance of the people."

Learn more about the Path of the Pronghorn.

Protecting and Connecting the Flathead National Forest

A new report “Conservation Legacy on a Flagship Forest: Wildlife and Wild Lands on the Flathead National Forest, Montana,” from WCS Senior Scientist Dr. John Weaver, calls for completing the legacy of Wilderness lands on the Flathead National Forest in Montana. The report identifies important, secure habitats and landscape connections for five species—bull trout, westslope cutthroat trout, grizzly bears, wolverines, and mountain goats. These iconic species are vulnerable to loss of secure habitat from industrial land uses and/or climate change. Weaver found that the Flathead is a stronghold for these fish and wildlife species that have been vanquished in much of their range further south. His analysis shows that 90 percent of the Flathead has a “very high” or “high” conservation value for at least one of the five focal species.

Read the recent press release here or access a copy of this report here.

For more information about Dr. Weavers research, please visit: Crown of the Continent.

Bison Gain Support from the Senate to be Declared the National Mammal

In the 1800s, industrial-scale slaughter left fewer than 1,000 bison in the wild. In 1905,the American Bison Society (ABS) was established by WCS in response to the slaughter, to save the species from extinction. ABS activities included the relocation of bison from the wild to the Bronx Zoo in New York. Today, WCS is working to restore free-ranging plains and wood bison at multiple locations across their historical ranges to ensure a future for wild bison. A historical icon of the Great Plains, the American Bison 'takes a first step today toward becoming an official American symbol.'

Learn more about the National Bison Legacy Act and vote in the polls in support of this iconic legislation: Senate to introduce bill to make bison the national mammal.

Learn more about the WCS Bison Conservation Program and Iinnii Initiative collaboration led by Keith Aune, WCS' Conservation Scientist and Bison Coordinator.


WCS Scientist Highlighted by American Association of University Women

Heidi Kretser had to go all the way to Nepal to realize that her dream job was back home in New York. She was working at Nepal’s Chitwan National Park when she realized, “Here I was, thousands of miles away from where I grew up. I had this epiphany that I really just wanted to work in a nice place, not a large city, and work in a park … and thought that I can do that in the Adirondacks, living essentially in my hometown.” So she packed her bags, earned her master’s degree in environmental studies from Yale, and began work with the Wildlife Conservation Society in New York. At WCS, she started a career focused on the human dimensions of wildlife and conservation management. She currently holds the position of Livelihoods and Conservation Coordinator in WCS’ North American program.In a recent profile of WCS's North America Program's Livelihoods and Conservation Coordinator, Dr. Heidi Kretser, the American Association of University Women (AAUW) spotlights their past fellow and her current work. Read the article by AAUW here: "Backwoods Adventurer, Endangered Cat Defender, Moose Expert"


WCS Contributes to Groundbreaking Guidance on Climate-Smart Conservation

Climate-Smart Conservation: Putting Adaptation Principles into Practice looks at how climate change already is affecting the nation’s wildlife and habitats, and addresses how natural resource managers will need to prepare for and adapt to these unprecedented changes. Developed by a broad collaboration of experts from federal, state, and non-governmental institutions, the guide offers practical steps for crafting conservation actions to enhance the resilience of the natural ecosystems on which wildlife and people depend.

As the scope and scale of climate impacts continue to reveal their impacts on our communities and natural resources, there is a growing recognition of the need to not only address the underlying cause of climate change, by reducing climate-disrupting carbon pollution, but also to prepare for and adjust to our new conditions, known as climate adaptation. Because there is no one-size-fits-all solution to adaptation, the guide emphasizes the need to be intentional and deliberate in linking conservation actions to climate impacts.

WCS Scientists Dr. Molly Cross and Erika Rowland were among the experts that contributed to this collection of useful information for conservation practitioners working in a variety of systems across the country.

Read the guide here.


Protecting the Future

WCS Scientist Dr. Heidi Kretser is working to stop wildlife trade and trafficking.  To learn more, see her recent blog entry at WILD VIEW.

Our footsteps echo along the long hallways of the American Museum of Natural History. We are flanked by seemingly endless rows of metal cabinets containing prized trophies of long ago scientific expeditions, from a time when tigers numbered over 100,000 in the wild and elephants in the millions.

We systematically open the metal cabinets and invited over 50 ghosts of our past to a photo shoot where we detailed the variation in fur color, length of hair, and size of the pelts.

As illegal trade in wildlife continues to increase, law enforcement officers need improved tools to aid in the identification of species from products, these photos will be used in a decision-tree style mobile app to help stop such wildlife crimes. By using the past, we will protect the future.


Guiding Wildlife Conservation in Anticipation of Climate Change

Climate scientists have accomplished a great deal in gaining insight and understanding of the difficult truths of climate change. They have connected convincing data to devastating outcomes in the present while providing honest, dire predictions for the future if we continue on our currently unsustainable path. These efforts have garnered the necessary attention to climate change, giving rise to a massive shift in thinking that, in turn, is paving the way for the next wave: action. But, taking actions to address the myriad of challenges climate change poses and preparing for a suite of uncertainties is easier said than done. Indeed, increased climate change awareness has ushered in depression about what the future may bring and near-paralysis, making the next wave difficult to catch.

For Dr. Molly Cross, tackling climate change challenges inspires her to action. According to Cross: "By staying engaged with the latest scientific literature and working with my fellow colleagues on the frontlines of these issues, my passion is ignited." 

Watch her inspiring talk here: TEDxBozeman 2014.

Photo: TEDxBozeman 2014.