Endangered Species Act Recovery Plans Lacks Strategy for Coping with Global Warming

Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage

A recent review of Endangered Species Act recovery plans finds a lack of a national strategy for incorporating global warming as an extinction threat. The review was undertaken by biologist Anthony Povilitis, the director of Arizona based Life, Net, Nature and the Center for Biological Diversity. Povilitis says only about 5 percent of the plans written before 2005 indicate climate change as a threat, even though global warming is the greatest over arching threat for endangered species. He says there was an uptick in numbers between 2005 and 2008, saying that now 60 percent of the plans include climate change factors indicating a growing recognition of global warming in recovery planning, but he says many endangered species still don’t have recovery plans in place.

Povilitis says the federal government is reluctant to implement plans that may affect national policy on greenhouse gas emissions. He says the preliminary documents that will eventually lead to a recovery plan for the polar bear do not mention climate change.

But U.S Fish and Wildlife spokesman Bruce Woods says recovery plans are dynamic and can be amended and often are. He says a good example is the plan for stellar and spectacled eiders which included a captive breeding program.

And Rosa Mehan, head of the marine mammals division says addressing the broader issue of climate change in a recovery plan would be a miss, because it’s global and you can’t get there through a species plan. But she says although the problem is large, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming.

The study – Addressing Climate Change Threats to Endangered Species in U.S. Recovery Plans -was published in Conservation Biology.

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