U.S. GAO report: Climate Change - Various Adaptation Efforts are Underway at Key Natural Resource Management Agencies

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has reviewed what federal agencies are doing to incorporate climate change adaptation into their natural resource planning and management activities. In August 2007, the GAO reported that federal natural resource managers lacked specific guidance for incorporating climate change into their planning efforts and management actions. This report examines (1) steps key federal natural resource management agencies have taken since 2007 to address climate change adaptation and (2) how these agencies have collaborated with each other at the national level since 2007 to address climate change adaptation. While federal agencies have taken many different climate change adaptation actions, this research focused on those actions that the GAO determined were most directly relevant to helping guide the management activities of the field location they visited at each agency.

Four key federal natural resource management agencies were selected to review because they administer over 90 percent of the federal lands in the United States, which include: the Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, and the Bureau of Land Management. NOAA was selected also because it manages coastal and ocean natural resources, such as the national marine sanctuary system.

To learn how one natural resource site managed by each of the agencies has addressed climate change adaptation since 2007, representatives from the GAO visited five sites, reviewed planning documents, and interviewed agency officials that manage the resources at those sites. The five sites we visited were (1) the Forest Service’s Chugach National Forest in south - central Alaska; (2) NOAA’s Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary in southern Florida; (3) the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge in northern California; (4) the National Park Service's Glacier National Park in northwestern Montana; and (5) the Bureau of Land  Management's Kingman Field Office in northwestern Arizona.

To determine how the five natural resource management agencies have incorporated adaptation measures, the GAO reviewed and analyzed relevant strategic plans, actions plans, policies, resource management plans, and guidance documents, as well as interviewed senior officials at each agency. The report presents a review of these findings, providing specific examples of how some federally managed natural resource areas have addressed climate change adaptation at the site level. 

Publication Date: May 2013

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