Sportsmen and Climate Change: A Long, Hard Look at Reality

Hunter Crossing River by Dusan Smetana

Science has made it abundantly clear that climate change is real, and it already is affecting our natural resources, fish and wildlife and outdoor opportunities. Photo by Dusan Smetana.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As the United States writhes in one of the driest and hottest summers in history, with nearly two-thirds of the lower 48 states experiencing some form of drought, millions of Americans (including farmers and ranchers) are struggling from the resulting loss of income and higher prices for food and fuel.  Other recent disturbing news illustrates the practical implications this weather event can have on fish and wildlife. Millions of fish – sturgeon, large- and smallmouth bass, channel catfish and other species – are dying in the Midwest as water temperatures skyrocket to as high as 100 degrees.

What is clear:  both the human toll and the impacts to fish and wildlife caused by a changing climate and warmer temperatures have real consequences and cannot be ignored.

A new NASA report states that climate change is responsible for recent extreme weather events and that the probability of unusually warm summers has greatly increased. Now, Dr. Richard A. Muller, a physicist known for his staunch denial of global warming, has concluded that global warming is in fact real, with human production of carbon dioxide causing the world to slowly warm.

“I’m personally very worried,” says Dr. Muller. “I personally suspect that it will be bad.”

Of course, many continue to refute the science underlying climate change and indict the majority of scientists who accept its existence for promulgating a political agenda. In my opinion, as the TRCP’s climate change initiative manager, these individuals are simply resistant to accepting the reality of what science has made abundantly clear: climate change is real, and it already is affecting our natural resources, fish and wildlife and outdoor opportunities.

I recently wrote a guest article in The Seattle Times arguing that to develop an effective approach to addressing climate change, we cannot rely solely on public opinion polls. We must pay attention to those who are “voting with their feet” – the fish and wildlife that cannot debate habitability in the public square and must adapt to or migrate from changing habitat or die.

At the TRCP, we accept the growing evidence that climate change is real and that changes go well beyond disturbances driven by entirely natural forces. We regularly consult with fish and wildlife biologists in state and federal agencies throughout the United States on the habits, distribution and abundance of fish and wildlife.

The facts leave no doubt that climate change is undeniable. Here are a few examples:

  • Even before this year’s Midwestern fish kills from hot water, smallmouth bass have been migrating upstream nearly 40 miles in the warming Yellowstone River, displacing Yellowstone cutthroat that require colder water.
  • Warming winters and summers have led to an explosion in mountain pine beetle infestations over millions of acres in many Western pine forests, causing a dramatic conversion of forest cover to grass and shrub meadows in elk habitat. This leads to changes in elk populations and distribution during hunting seasons.
  • In a direct response to warmer springs and summers and elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, invasive cheatgrass has out-competed sagebrush and native grasses and shrubs throughout 100 million acres of the sagebrush steppe in the West, leading to decreased mule deer and greater sage-grouse habitat and populations, as well as diminished hunting opportunities.

What is the TRCP doing now? We are actively working to inform, educate and mobilize sportsmen by reporting timely data from state fish and wildlife agencies and federal land management agencies. Our state-specific presentations highlight the implications of a changing environment on fish and wildlife and the consequences for sustainable hunting and fishing. We’ve developed presentations for Montana, Washington and Colorado – with Oregon and New Mexico in the works.

Rather than debating specific points of air temperature or carbon dioxide data, the TRCP focuses on the cascading effects of a changing climate in the biological world, including impacts to species of fish and game most important to sportsmen. We highlight on-the-ground projects that help fish and wildlife adapt to a changing environment.

We are taking these state-specific presentations directly to sportsmen-based clubs throughout the West with the goal of providing factual evidence on climate change. Take five minutes to watch the video below and draw your own conclusions.

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Bill Geer

Bill Geer

Bill Geer joined the TRCP staff in 2005 as Policy Initiatives Manager. After earning a B.S. from the University of Montana School of Forestry and a M.S. degree in limnology from Montana State University, Bill has spent the past 32 years as a professional fish and wildlife conservationist. He served as the Director of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Coordinator for the North American Waterfowl Management Plan for the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Vice President for both Field Operations and Conservation Programs for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Inland Northwest Conservation for the Nature Conservancy in Idaho and Executive Director of the Outdoor Writers Association of America before joining the TRCP in February 2005.

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About Bill Geer

Bill Geer joined the TRCP staff in 2005 as Policy Initiatives Manager. After earning a B.S. from the University of Montana School of Forestry and a M.S. degree in limnology from Montana State University, Bill has spent the past 32 years as a professional fish and wildlife conservationist. He served as the Director of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Coordinator for the North American Waterfowl Management Plan for the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Vice President for both Field Operations and Conservation Programs for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Inland Northwest Conservation for the Nature Conservancy in Idaho and Executive Director of the Outdoor Writers Association of America before joining the TRCP in February 2005.

14 comments on “Sportsmen and Climate Change: A Long, Hard Look at Reality

  1. Give me a break, Climate change is real of course but it is not man made or from the release of that toxic gas carbon dioxide that we all exhale. This is just more alarmism designed to cause fear and to get support for a dubious cause. If the planet is warming slightly thank god because I really don’t want glaciers in NYC like there were during the ice age.

    Maybe you can convince me of the dangers of plate tectonics which would cause untold catastrophe across the globe, maybe we can try and anchor our continents now.

    The plain fact is that earth’s climate is always changing and always will and humans will eventually get wiped out by some event most likely not man made barring nuclear war. If yellowstone erupts I don’t think you will have to worry about global warming for awhile at least until we will be able to see the sun again.

    Too bad your organization wants to get political about everything, that must be the marching orders from PEW who pull your strings.

    • Bill Geer on said:

      Thanks for offering your opinion and for following the TRCP Blog. Our blog post on Climate Change informs folks on recent events and highlights some of the things we are doing to help educate sportsmen about the affects it has of fish and wildlife. As you can see, we encourage sportsmen to ‘draw their own conclusions’.

      It seems that you yourself acknowledge that climate change is occurring. Putting aside debate around any one cause for climate change, if we know it is happening then it is only responsible that we as sportsmen work with state agencies and others to help them adapt their management approaches of our fish and wildlife. Doing so will help keep the critters we love to hunt and the fish we love to catch around for a long time to come.

    • Dave Stalling on said:

      Toner: There is definitive, conclusive and overwhelming and unanimous consensus among scientists all over the world showing a very clear link between current, rapidly-occurring climate change and its link to the emissions of C02 and other greenhouse gasses. Even one of the most previously skeptical of scientists, Dr. Richard Muller (funded by the Koch brothers) has concluded that climate change is indeed being caused by humans. This diverse and worldwide scientific community is hardly “united” in causes and political agendas, other than a desire to reduce C02 emissions. For the most part, the only significant disagreement with this diverse, worldwide scientific consensus is perpetuated by inaccurate, misleading propaganda produced and distributed by the Heartland Institute and the Koch brothers for their dubious political causes. But regardless of whether you want to believe most of the world’s top scientists or a wealthy, ultra-conservative U.S. think tank with a political agenda, the “dubious” cause you refer to is to simply reduce our addiction to and dependence on fossil fuels, reduce our release of toxic pollutants, and develop cleaner, safer, healthier, more sustainable sources of energy. That hardly seems like a bad thing, no?

    • Sidney Wagner on said:

      Toner,
      I agree with you completely.
      During the Little ice Age, 1500 AD to 1850 AD, crops would fail, thousands of poor people starved to death, and superstitious people began to ask why? The tongues would wag and thousands of witches were burned at the stake.
      Today we have the “educated class” and bureaucrats who wish to control and tax us into servitude with these tall tales of impending disaster due to a a trace gas in the atmosphere called CO 2.
      CO 2 is necessary for all the life on earth. Increased CO 2 equals abundant crops.
      Water vapor is responsible for 98% of the temperature stability of the atmosphere.

    • BarryvilleCastNBlast on said:

      Toner,
      Did you take a look at the organizations on the Climate Change working group along with the TRCP?
      American Fisheries Society
      American Fly Fishing Trade Association
      American Sportfishing Association
      Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies
      BASS/ESPN Outdoors
      Coastal Conservation Association
      Ducks Unlimited
      Izaak Walton League of America
      Land Trust Alliance
      Mule Deer Foundation
      The Nature Conservancy
      New York State Conservation Council, Inc.
      Pheasants Forever
      Quail Unlimited
      The Wildlife Society
      Trout Unlimited
      Wildlife Management Institute

      That’s a pretty respectable group right there that all realize that climate change poses a serious threat to the future of hunting and fishing.

  2. Dave Stalling on said:

    A well-stated, informative and important message! It’s good to see a hunter and angler-based group take on this critical issue — Theodore Roosevelt would be proud! Thanks TRCP and Bill Geer!

  3. Adam Davis on said:

    Very interesting article on climate change. Even though there’s debate as to what is causing the climate to change, it is clear that change is occuring. What effect this will have on the numbers and migration of wildlife is unclear.

    • JohnD @20, perhaps part of the anwesr is for the scientists and journos to collate and publish all the abusive arguments from the skeptics ? Just as Clive Hamilton is indeed doing in his article.The quality of these arguments is so very poor that, subjected to broad daylight, it will surely be seen by most people for what it is? Even by people who are very time-poor, and inclined to accept the general tone of what they read in the media or see on TV, rather than checking the data for themselves.The scientists who are the subject of these attacks need to coordinate and compile a dossier of all the attacks, and publish the lot of it. It will make ugly reading, no doubt.Most people are reasonable human beings, and they will probably come to the appropriate conclusions

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  5. The fact is that the earth is in a warming cycle. The question remains what is the normal temperature. Fossilized evidence shows that the Dakotas and New England had tropical environments before the cataclysmic event that caused the ice age. Long before man and the industrial revolution ,the ice cap was receding or in other words melting. As far as I know the sun is as hot as it has been, and the same distance from earth as it has been. When you put an ice cube under a heat lamp it mellts. When the glacial mass was large, it had a cooling effect on the earth and its climate, as the size of this cooling mass decreases it has less cooling capacity to offset the suns heat. The smaller it gets the more the earths average temperature will rise, the faster the temp rises the quicker the ice cap melts. What we are seeing now is an exponential increase in the cycle of melting and increasing temperatures. The point is, the earth will continue to warm at an increased rate as the ice caps melt until the earths climate is at the “normal temperature” before the last ice age. This should be easily calculated when the suns heat, distance to the sun and all the other physics are calculated in. I have not seen or heard any calculation as to what the temp was before the ice age or what it should be after all the ice melts. This makes me highly suspicious that the mantra of never let a good crisis go to waste is in full play when it comes to manipulating energy usage and cost through programs like capand trade. All that needs to be asked is who owns the carbon credits to sell, and who will be getting rich from the brokerage of these credits. The answer is the people that are pushing the global warming agenda, the current administration and its cronies . People like Franklin Raines (who walked away from Fannie mae and Freddie mac with 90 million dollars, and we all know how that turned out, Goldman sacs who seem to always be stretching the boundaries of ethics with derivatives, hedge funds etc. Pelosi who has invested heavily in new energy start ups, etc. The trcp should focus on the inevitable warming of the climate and what impact it will have on ecosystems, not jump on the bandwagon of “green energy’ as if it will change the outcome on global warming.

  6. BarryvilleCastNBlast on said:

    Thank you TRCP for shedding some light on the climate change issue. I don’t quite understand how people get so defensive and angry over the darn issue. Guess that’s politics for ya. In any case- this is an issue sportsmen should be following closely. Keep up the good work.

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