White House releases priority agenda for enhancing climate resilience of natural resources

Recently, the federal interagency Council on Climate Change Preparedness and Resilience released a document titled Priority Agenda for Enhancing the Climate Resilience of America’s Natural Resources (http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/enhancing_climate_resilience_of_americas_natural_resources.pdf).

The agenda was prepared by a Climate and Natural Resources Working Group that includes the Departments of Defense, Interior, and Agriculture, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The agenda is an integration report describing how the agencies will, separately and together, work to increase the resilience of America’s ecosystems and agricultural lands, as well as the capacity of those lands to protect human settlements from climate damage and to sequester carbon. It suggests that future threats to forests are dominated by urban development, climate-induced insect and disease attack, and fire. Included in the document are proposals, lists of existing programs, and descriptions of ongoing information systems development that will help individuals, corporations, and local governments deal with climate impacts. The agenda identifies the following four priority strategies to make the nation’s natural resources more resilient to a changing climate:

  • Foster climate-resilient lands and waters;
  • Manage and enhance U.S. carbon sinks;
  • Enhance community preparedness and resilience by utilizing and sustaining natural resources; and
  • Modernize federal programs, investments, and delivery of services to build resilience and enhance sequestration of biological carbon.

For each strategy, the agenda documents challenges and progress to date, and provides a road map for future action. Of particular relevance to the forestry sector are the following recommendations:

  • Improve inventory, assessment, projection, and monitoring systems for important carbon sinks;
  • Develop estimates of baseline carbon stocks and trends to inform federal natural resources management;
  • Promote forest conservation and restoration, complementary markets for sustainably harvested wood products, and urban forestry; and
  • Support forest conservation and investment tax provisions as a means to retain and restore forests.

The agenda expresses support for working forests and efforts to maintain them (e.g., favorable tax treatment of managed timberlands), and for more management of forests on federal lands. Other recommendations include budgeting for extreme fires like other natural disasters (i.e., treating them as catastrophic costs that are funded outside of budget caps), using wood for construction and energy production, controlling invasive species, increasing ecosystem connectivity, and strengthening the collection, coordination, and assessment of field inventory data.