Forest Service Asked to Protect National Forests for a Changing Climate

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Sandy Bahr, Sierra Club, (602) 999-5790 (mobile)
Louise Misztal, Sky Island Alliance, (520) 624-7080 x 19
Taylor McKinnon, Center for Biological Diversity, (928) 310-6713
Kate Mackay, Arizona Wilderness Coalition, (602) 571-2603

Forest Service Asked to Protect National Forests for a Changing Climate

Conservation Leaders Participate in Forest Service Roundtables to Develop New Plans to Save Wildlife, Water, and Open Space

PHOENIX, AZ - As Arizona’s climate changes, with experts expecting hotter
temperatures and longer droughts, the Sierra Club, Sky Island Alliance,
Center for Biological Diversity, Arizona Wilderness Coalition, and
other conservation organizations and outdoor users are calling on the
U.S. Forest Service to adjust its plans to protect clean water,
wildlife habitats, and outdoor opportunities on national forest lands,
including the six national forests here in Arizona.

Today
the Forest Service convened sessions in Phoenix to listen to ideas from
the concerned public on how to revise its planning process to protect
our national forests from the effects of climate change and preserve
them for future generations.

“Arizona’s national
forests provide clean water for millions of people and habitat for some
of our most treasured and endangered species, including Mexican gray
wolves, bald eagles, Kaibab squirrels, and pronghorn, among countless
others, plus offer recreational opportunities including hiking and
wildlife watching,” said Sandy Bahr, director of the Sierra Club’s
Grand Canyon Chapter. “These lands and the species that inhabit them
now face significant threats, including climate change.”

Conservation
and recreational groups are participating in these roundtables to
ensure that the Forest Service is managing its lands to mitigate and
survive climate change. Species migrations are shifting, formerly
healthy populations are shrinking, and water temperatures are rising. National
forest land covers 11.5 million acres in Arizona alone; the Forest
Service must act now to make our lands more resilient to climate change.

“It
has become clear to the resource-management, scientific, and
conservation communities that protecting the natural systems wildlife
and people depend on in the face of climate change will require new
ways of thinking about land management,” said Louise Misztal,
conservation biologist with the Sky Island Alliance in Tucson. “Now is
the time for the Forest Service to ensure climate-smart management that
safeguards our wildlife, water, and natural heritage.”

“New forest plans need to ensure the viability of wildlife populations
and include clear, enforceable standards that help species survive and
forests adjust to global warming,” said Taylor McKinnon of the Center
for Biological Diversity.

The
regional roundtables come on the heels of a scoping process that the
Forest Service undertook and to which the conservation groups submitted
detailed comments. Those comments focused specifically on ways that
land management must be focused if we are going to create resilient
habitats, forests, and ecosystems. In short, the new rule must apply
sound science, protect fish and wildlife, address climate change,
ensure accountability to the American public, preserve water and
watersheds, and save America’s outdoor legacy.

“Wilderness
and roadless lands – the most resilient, intact habitat left on our
national forests – preserve a stronger natural barrier against
nonnative species and offer wildlife a sanctuary from other biological
pressures such as disease, habitat loss, and inbreeding,” says Kate
Mackay, deputy director for the statewide Arizona Wilderness Coalition.
“If forest managers are truly serious on protecting our wildlife and
the habitat they need to survive in the face of climate change, they
should be taking a hard look at the benefits of designated wilderness
and their connectivity with other roadless lands.”

 

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At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

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