Press Release

Fish & Wildlife Service Proposes Rule that Prioritizes Climate Change Impacts, Biodiversity Protection

“We need every tool in the toolkit to protect these important Refuges from threats like invasive species and climate change”

Washington, DC – The Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC) and National Wildlife Refuge Association (NWRA) commend the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for proposing a rule update that prioritizes climate change impacts and biodiversity protection. The proposed regulation identifies addressing climate change as the top management directive for refuge managers to use as a framework for decision-making. The proposed regulation also imposes guardrails on managers to limit activities that may cause harm to wildlife habitats on Refuge lands. ELPC and NWRA submitted joint comments to the Fish & Wildlife Service.

Howard Learner, ELPC Executive Director, said:

“National Wildlife Refuges provide vital habitat for wildlife across the Midwest and Great Plains. We need every tool in the toolkit to protect these important Refuges from threats like invasive species and climate change, and to avoid incompatible large destructive highways, pipelines and transmission lines that can impair conservations values. We commend the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s proposed new rule for moving in the right direction by limiting disruptive activities on protected Refuge lands, but there is more work to be done. We encourage the Fish & Wildlife Service to strengthen the rule by promoting greater habitat connectivity within the National Wildlife Refuge System.”

Geoffrey Haskett, NWRA President, said:

“National wildlife refuges are an irreplaceable treasure, providing vital habitat for countless species and serving as sanctuaries for all Americans to enjoy. This new rule is a critical step forward in ensuring these special places are protected for generations to come, in the face of growing threats like climate change and habitat loss. We applaud the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for its leadership and urge the agency to adopt even stronger safeguards to keep these refuges whole and healthy for the benefit of wildlife and people alike.”

While the overall updates in the proposed rule are positive, ELPC and NWRA recommend the  regulation should also include more specific directives to reduce the potential for habitat fragmentation and extinction of certain wildlife by ensuring more connectivity between refuge lands and employing even stronger conservation practices than what currently exists.

Additionally, Fish & Wildlife Service should include in the proposed rule explicit consultation requirements with Tribes and Indigenous Communities as part of any decision-making process that could affect their interests on Refuge lands.

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