Report Demonstrates Need for Wildlands Preservation to Address Climate Change in Northwest

Jun 17, 2009

SEATTLE - Responding to a major new government science report on global climate change released by the White House yesterday, The Wilderness Society's Pacific Northwest Regional Office said that the report affirms the need for urgent action and the importance of protecting critical wildlife habitat and undisturbed natural areas.

The long-awaited report contains the most comprehensive and peer-reviewed information published to date on the impacts of climate change in the U.S. A special chapter dedicated to the Northwest outlines impacts such as spring snowpack decline, stress among salmon populations due to warming water temperatures and increased wildfire outbreaks.

"This report affirms the need to protect key ecosystems. Our forests, rivers and wildlands are critical to human health, providing clear water for communities, and capturing and storing global warming pollution," says Mike Anderson, Senior Resource Analyst with The Wilderness Society in Seattle. "Safeguarding our natural resources is more important now than ever."

The Wilderness Society is already taking steps to encourage the preservation of our natural resources in the Northwest by working to protect critical wildlife habitat, participating in federal agency forest management planning processes and utilizing the best available science to engage others in forest and watershed restoration initiatives.

"We are part of an increasingly warming world," said Anderson. "But as the report shows, there are measures we can take to moderate the impacts of climate change. When we preserve the Northwest's treasured wildlands, we help to bolster not only the environment to meet climate change challenges of the 21st century, but also our communities. We all have a stake in taking action. And the time to take action is now."

Highlights from the Northwest section of the report include:

  • The April 1 snowpack, a key indicator of natural water storage available for the warm season, has declined about 25 percent over the past 40 to 70 years in the Cascade Mountains and is projected to decline as much as 40 percent in the Cascades by the 2040s.
  • A shift to an earlier peak streamflow due to a faster melting snowpack will mean reduced hydropower generation, which provides 70 percent of the Northwest's electricity - a far greater percentage than in any other U.S. region - and one of the largest demands on water resources in the Northwest region.
  • Salmon and other coldwater species will experience additional stresses as a result of rising water temperatures and declining summer streamflows.
  • Higher summer temperatures and earlier spring snowmelt are expected to increase the risk of forest fires in the Northwest.
  • The region's average temperature is predicted to rise another 3 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit in this century.