Office of Sustainability and Climate Change
The many benefits we receive from forests and grasslands - provisioning services such as water, wood, and wild foods; regulating services such as erosion, flood, and climate control; and cultural services such as outdoor recreation, spiritual renewal, and aesthetic enjoyment - are threatened by climate change. The Climate Change Advisor is the primary spokesperson for the Forest Service on climate change and leads the implementation of the nationwide strategy for weaving climate change response into policies, processes, and partnerships.
Engaging a Climate Change Ready Agency
This month’s update features an essay on a new vulnerability assessment report of yellow-cedar in Alaska with detailed on-the-ground options for its conservation and management. The report was produced in collaboration with land managers, scientists, and specialists with the Forest Service’s Alaska Region, State and Private Forestry, and Pacific Northwest Research Station.
Climate Change Scorecard Update
The National Forests and Grasslands recently completed their fifth year of Climate Change Performance Scorecard reporting. Meanwhile, the Office of Sustainability & Climate Change (OSCC) has begun development of a revised Scorecard, which will roll out in FY 2017. Scorecard responses are used to ensure that the OSCC’s program of work is appropriately aligned with the needs of field units. Scorecard responses spotlight gaps in communication, policy, and science. The agency uses this information to inform research and policymaking priorities, leverage partnerships, and better serve local units and the public. The next iteration of the Scorecard will focus on advancing the agency from awareness-building to implementation of climate-informed land management.
This month’s update features an essay on the newly formed Office of Sustainability and Climate Change led by Dr. Cindi West. The consolidated national Office of Sustainability and Climate Change (OSCC) fuses two nationwide endeavors – Sustainable Operations and the Climate Change Advisor’s Office; this merger aims to break new strategic ground to respond to climate change and create behaviors that impact the resilience of our organization, our lands, and our planet.
Climate Education in a Busy World
July 31, 2015
We read and hear information and opinions on climate change in the news, but how much do we really understand about the science behind climate change and how it will affect the forests and grasslands we manage? Clear, engaging, and scientifically accu-rate climate education is the first step we can take to incorporate climate change into natural resource management. The importance of having a climate-aware workforce is recognized by the Forest Service in Element One, all-employee education, of the Cli-mate Change Performance Scorecard, and is also mandated by the President’s Priority Agenda for Enhancing the Climate Resilience of America’s Natural Resources.
The U.S. Forest Service Intermountain Region is beginning a region wide climate change vulnerability assessment and adaptation action partnership. The Intermountain Adaptation Partnership (IAP) will synthesize the best available scientific information to assess the sensitivity of natural resources to a changing climate and develop adaptation action strategies that could reduce potentially adverse effects. This project will provide the scientific foundation for operationalizing climate change in planning, ecological restoration, and project management, with applications across a broad range of resources and geographic areas.
In response to recent direction by the President to prepare for the impacts of climate change, the Forest Service has collaborated with the U.S. Global Change Research Program to publish a report on accomplishments by federal agencies in adapting to climate change. This landmark publication, funded by the Forest Service Climate Change Advisor’s Office and written by Forest Service and University of Washington scientists, summarizes adaptation strategies and on-the-ground tactics developed by federal resource management and science agencies.
USDA Mitigation Strategy
April 30, 2015
On November 12, 2014, President Obama announced that by 2025 the United States intends to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels. This economy-wide commitment comprises the U.S. contribution to the global effort to address climate change and will form a cornerstone of a new post-2020 international climate agreement. The USDA Climate Change Mitigation Strategy is a response to this commitment.
March 31, 2015
Assisting tribal Nations in preparing for and recovering from the impacts of climate change through enhanced outreach and partnership is a new program direction for the Forest Service. In a vivid demonstration of the potential of partnerships for climate resilience, the ever-growing relationship between the Forest Service and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) in the Southern Region exemplifies the power of cohesive thinking and engagement.
February 27, 2015
The U.S. Forest Service has made rapid progress in building resilience to climate change on federal lands by establishing science-management partnerships and using a standard framework to implement activities at regional to local scales. Climate change projects generally use an all-lands approach that includes federal and state agencies, tribes, non-governmental organizations, and other stakeholders.
February 9, 2015
From that first summer on a Forest Service trail crew, high in the Snowy Range of the Medicine Bow National Forest and high on the contrast with the cornfields and grain elevators of my native Ohio, I knew that this was where I wanted to be, in spirit and in place. Working on climate change issues these last few years with some of the best and most dedicated talent this or any agency could hope for has put me back on that high ridge, exhilarated, inspired, certainly more humble but able to see some things a little clearer. Decades later, as I retire and move on to another chapter, a few reflections.
December 30, 2014
Over the past year, Forest Service specialists have been working with scientists from the Nation-al University of Loja (UNL) in Loja, Ecuador to complete a Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment for three provinces in the southern region of Ecuador. Funded by USAID through International Programs, the Forest Service provided a technical team to share the Watershed Vulnerability Assessment (WVA) process developed and piloted by Michael Furniss (retired PNWS) et al. (/pnw/pubs/pnw_gtr884.pdf). In addition to Michael Furniss, the Forest Service team working with the Ecuadorians included Caty Clifton (Regional Water Quality and Water Rights Program Manager, Region 6), Carol Howe (GIS Specialist, Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison NF), Traci Sylte (Soil, Water and Aquatics Program Manager, Lolo NF), and Sherry Hazelhurst (Director State & Private Forestry, Region 5), with additional support from Polly Hayes (Regional Hydrologist, Region 2), Mark Weinhold (Forest Hydrologist, White River NF), and Dan Cenderelli (Fluvial Geomorphologist/Hydrologist, RMRS, Stream Team). International Programs staff involved with the project included Camille McCarthy and Guillermo Sanchez.
November 30, 2014
Here’s a roundup of this month’s climate related activities. The update is designed to inform you about Forest Service activities that are linked to our changing climate as we all work to bring climate change knowledge into our organizational expectations and actions.
October 31, 2014
The National Forests and Grasslands recently completed their fourth annual Scorecard assessment. The Scorecard has ten yes-or-no questions in the four dimensions of organizational capacity, engagement, adaptation, and mitigation, with narratives to describe accomplishments and plans for improvement. By the end of next fiscal year (FY15), each unit is expected to answer yes to at least seven of the scorecard questions, with at least one yes in each dimension. There are 113 administrative units.
September 30, 2014
Our forests – national forests as well as private and other public forests – provide an important ecosystem service in the form of carbon sequestration – the uptake and storage of carbon in forests and wood products. This service is becoming more valuable as the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions are becoming more fully understood and experienced. The Forest Service has always led efforts to practice, develop, and demonstrate sound and sustainable management of forest-based resources; the management of forest carbon is no exception.
August 29, 2014
Natural resource professionals work with diverse groups of stakeholders to set and achieve management goals. And let’s face it—climate change can be a difficult subject to bring to the table. The volume and complexity of new climate information increases continually and can easily feel overwhelming, even for those who want to stay on top of the latest research. Moreover, many people want exact answers about how and when climate change will affect the areas they care about. But there is built-in uncer-tainty in future climate, which means that even the perfect climate model could only provide us with a range of alternate futures—but not the future. Finally, there’s the issue that there are still many people out there—1 in 4 according to recent polls by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication—that don’t think climate change is happening at all.
July 30, 2014
Successful partnerships make the difference between plans that get implemented and those that collect dust on the shelf. Organizations working together:
- Achieve greater buy-in
- Create momentum
- Expand the resources available to address challenges
June 30, 2014
This month’s update features climate related news from around the country - awards, trainings, adaptation projects, reports etc.
May 30, 2014
On May 6, 2014, the U.S. Global Change Research Program released the 3rd U.S. National Climate Assessment (NCA), the most authoritative and comprehensive source of scientific information on all major regions and critical social and economic sectors of United States. This report contains practical, useable knowledge that natural resource decision-makers can use to anticipate and prepare for the impacts of climate change on National Forests. The scientific findings of the NCA confirm that climate change is not a distant threat; it is affecting natural resources today and will likely continue to affect those resources into the future.
April 30, 2014
In June 2013, USDA announced the launch of seven “Regional Hubs for Risk Adaptation and Mitigation to Climate change” and in February 2014, Secretary Vilsack announced the selection of the 7 Climate Hub locations and 3 Sub-Hubs.
The mission of the Climate Hubs is to develop science-based, region-specific information and technologies to agricultural and natural resource managers that enable climate-smart decision-making and to provide assistance to enable land managers to implement those decisions. The main point of the effort is to get information, tools, and program assistance to working-land managers; it centers more on technology transfer than research. All three Forest Service (FS) deputy areas have a part in the mission of the Climate Hubs. The mission closely matches the State & Private Forestry mission, the National Forest System (NFS) will be a major benefactor and is also often the first point of contact with the public, and the information and tools from Research & Development (R&D) will have a greater impact as we work with the Climate Hubs. Key partners in the networks include the public and land grant universities, the state Cooperative Extension Services, USDA researchers, the private sector, state, local and regional governments, NOAA, DOI regional climate change experts, and non-profits engaged in providing assistance to landowners.
March 31, 2014
Extreme weather events like snowstorms can paralyze entire cities and hurricanes can cause flooding and impact millions of people. Many would argue that nothing in the world is as dramatic as these natural displays of raw power. But when most really begin to take notice is when these events happen in places like Atlanta, where not one but two winter storms literally shut down the entire region twice this year. Or in New York City, where “Superstorm Sandy” forced the city’s century-old subway system to shut down for only the second time in history as seawater invaded its underground tunnels. While no single weather event can be linked to climate change, are extreme events like these the new normal? Is abrupt climate change already happening? Are events like these the result?
February 28, 2014
Climate change is probably the most important issue facing our children and grandchil-dren, and the generations to follow. If you read the newspaper or watch the news, you’re probably becoming aware that our world is changing in ways that affect us all. Reports of record-breaking weather, drought, wildfires, floods, extreme weather events, and ice melt have taken a prominent place in the daily news. Whatever our politics, or world views, all of us want the best for our children and future generations. The best way to the future that we desire for our kids is to acknowledge and begin to tackle this problem.
January 31, 2014
Happy New Year to one and all! We hope everyone managed to stay warm over the past few weeks through the “polar bear” type weather that plagued almost half of the lower 48 states. Unfortunately and unsurprisingly, climate change skeptics are pointing to the record cold weather and snowfall as evidence that the climate isn’t changing.
While these temperatures are definitely one for the books, even the cold snap we just went through doesn’t change the overall warming we are seeing worldwide.
November 29, 2013
This climate newsletter is one example of the efforts made by Forest Service scientists and resource professionals to communicate the latest information and technological developments within the global climate change community. We regularly utilize a wide variety of means to make connections among networks to share news, results, ideas and opportunities so that we may all grow our understanding to this most important, complex, consequential issue. As a group we work across agencies, across disciplines, across geography and boundaries: we are a well-meshed box of gears. But where is this box driving?
October 31, 2013
It’s report card season here in the Climate Change Advisor’s Office! The National Forests and Grasslands recently completed their third annual Scorecard assessment. For those who aren’t familiar, the Climate Change Performance Scorecard is a way for each national forest and grassland to measure its progress from 2011-2015 by describing accomplishments toward a “yes” answer to ten questions in four dimensions – organizational capacity, engagement, adaptation, and mitigation.
The ten questions about employee education, designated climate change coordinators, program guidance, science and management partnerships, other partnerships, assessing vulnerability, adaptation actions, monitoring, carbon assessment and stewardship and sustainable operations are designed to improve our readiness to respond to climate change. By 2015, each unit is expected to answer yes to at least seven of the scorecard questions, with at least one yes in each dimension. Great news is that forty-nine percent of units already met this expectation by 2013!!
September 30th, 2013
The frequency, severity, and extent of wildfire are strongly linked to climate. In a warming climate, we are experiencing earlier snowmelt, lower summer soil moisture and fuel moisture, more drought, and longer fire seasons. Collectively, these conditions have led to increases in fire extent and challenges for land managers.
Increasing temperatures and changes in precipitation and snowmelt patterns are increasing the severity and size of wildfires in the West, especially in northern latitudes, including Alaska. Much of the West has experienced prolonged drought in the last decade. Florida, Georgia, Utah, California, Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado have all experienced their largest and/or most destructive fires in history in the last six years.
August 30th, 2013
Sustainability is at the heart of the Forest Service mission “to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the Nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations.” Living on a planet with a changing climate and serving as public stewards of our National Forests and Grasslands in a fiscally-constrained environment requires our collective creativity to honor our commitment to sustainability. We must connect our stewardship when “caring for the land” with practices that reduce our consumption and environmental footprint, thus serving as a model to others. The direct relationship between the planet’s healthy lands and our faucets, heating systems, modes of transportation and other goods and services has never been more apparent or important.
July 31st, 2013
On June 25, in sweltering Washington DC heat and humidity, President Obama delivered a momentous address on the need to deal with climate change. With his speech, came a government wide plan for executive actions and heightened emphasis on dealing with compelling risks and opportunities of a changing climate. Forests and grasslands -the ecosystems we and our partners manage and protect -are woven throughout the plan and are positioned as part of the solution.
More News from the Climate
- Message from FS Scientists on the National Climate Assessment Technical Report
- The Wise Use of Wood
- Understanding forest carbon – our complex but reliable emissions backup
- Everyone’s talking about climate change
- Our Changing Climate... A Clear and Present Reason for Restoration
- Getting Straight to the Good Stuff
- Going to Extremes
- Results of the Scorecard 2011 Baseline Assessment
- Managing Risk: Key to Climate Change Adaptation
- The Challenge of Wildland Fire Management in an Era of Climate Change
- The Way We Talk About Climate Change– 5/25/2011
- Preliminary Scorecard Responses Are In – 04/26/2011
- Increasing Our Shared Understanding – 03/02/2011
- Assessing Our Progress – 02/02/2011
- Carbon Matters Too – 12/8/2010
- Preserving the Northwoods Landscape for Future Generations – 10/4/2010
- "Building in" a balanced response to climate change... and being accountable – 08/31/2010
- Getting Organized – 7/7/2010
- Becoming a Climate Ready Conservation Agency– 6/4/2010
The Climate Change Resource Center (CCRC) provides information and tools to land managers to address climate change in project planning and implementation. The CCRC offers educational information, decision-support models, maps, simulations, case studies, and toolkits.