Baucus bill orders coordinated response to global warming

2013-06-24T06:00:00Z 2013-06-24T06:30:56Z Baucus bill orders coordinated response to global warming

Climate change is a bit like the weather: Everybody talks about it, but few can do anything to change it.

That’s the take-away from a federal Government Accountability Office report on how public land managers have tried to protect their resources from increasing temperatures, decreasing water supplies, wildfires and loss of habitat.

While it found the agencies were good at planning for changes on their lands, they weren’t specifically required to consider climate change as a factor.

“In 2007, no one was doing anything,” said Jennifer Donohue, a spokeswoman for Montana Sen. Max Baucus, who’s proposing legislation to make the agencies work together and help state governments get involved. “Now some agencies are out there doing good things, but we need to coordinate it.”

Baucus and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., introduced S. 1202 on Thursday to make the five agencies cooperate on adaptation-specific policies. Doing so would not only improve those public lands, but protect the multi-billion-dollar community economies that depend on them.

“Outdoor recreation supports 64,000 Montana jobs each year,” Baucus said in an email. “One in five Montana jobs is tied to agriculture, and our timber industry is critical to western communities – every single one of those jobs depends on maintaining our healthy, wide-open spaces, forests and waterways. This bill gives local communities the tools they need to protect Montana’s outdoor jobs and streamlines federal bureaucracy to make sure we have a smart, coordinated plan in place moving forward.”


The GAO study looked at five sites representing the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Bureau of Land Management. Together, the five agencies oversee about 245 million acres of public land.

The sites were, respectively: Glacier National Park, Alaska’s Chugach National Forest, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, California’s San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge, and Arizona’s Kingman Field office. All but San Pablo Bay were also visited in a 2007 study.

Glacier Park officials in 2007 were not addressing climate change “because they had not received explicit National Park Service guidance or funding,” the report noted. That has improved, although the report said park policies often don’t specifically address climate change adaptations.

“For example,” the report stated, “a park manager said the management plan guides the park’s natural resource management activities, such as monitoring wildlife population trends, invasive species and wildfires, which park managers also consider to be climate change adaptation-related activities.“

But while plans and training exercises were taking place, NPS officials told the report authors their efforts were stunted by funding drops.

“Specifically, the official said the (Climate Change Response) Program received approximately $10 million in both fiscal years 2010 and 2011, but it received approximately $3 million in fiscal year 2012… A senior park service official said with less funding, inventory and monitoring program officials are not able to collect data as frequently, which affects the data’s reliability. As a result, the official said the data’s usefulness in helping park managers draw conclusions related to climate change has been limited.“

One funding problem in Glacier Park involved spruce budworm infestations. The report noted the insect usually works in three-year cycles, but recent warming trends have lengthened those to between seven and 15 years.

“As a result, hundreds of forested acres of Glacier National Park have been weakened, which could increase their susceptibility to fire,” the report noted. But funding shortages have prevented monitoring the infestations and developing a risk-management plan.


“This bill will provide some direction – it won’t just be changing terms,” said Dave Dittloff of the National Wildlife Federation in Missoula. “A lot of what needs to be done to help critters and plants is good conservation work, regardless of climate-change labels.”

But getting the agencies on the same page is important, Dittloff added. For instance, a grizzly bear wandering through the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex could touch the jurisdictions of the National Park Service, Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and Fish and Wildlife Service – as well as Montana’s Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks and Department of Natural Resources and Conservation.

“This bill is about making sure that’s all being managed as one coordinated system, particularly since some of the critters inside are going to need to move,” Dittloff said. “We need to allow them to move regardless of agency boundaries.”

In addition to the agency management directive, the bill would make climate change projects a specific qualifier in grant programs for state and tribal land managers. If states create climate adaptation plans, they would have greater access to State and Tribal Wildlife grants, Costal Zone Management Act grants and Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program funding.

In Montana, State and Tribal Wildlife grants provided about $1 million in 2012 to state agencies such as FWP. Tribal governments got another $200,000 that year for wildlife projects.

In a letter to Baucus and Whitehorse, the GAO report authors said managing public lands with the assumption that climate would stay the same as it’s been in the past no longer worked.

“In 2013, we added climate change to our list of high-risk areas because it poses significant financial risks to the federal government,” the authors wrote. “One of the areas where the federal government’s fiscal exposure is expected to increase is in its role as the manager of large amounts of land and other natural resources.”

Reporter Rob Chaney can be reached at 523-5382 or at

Copyright 2015 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(9) Comments

  1. Greenland
    Report Abuse
    Greenland - June 24, 2013 10:27 am
    The U.S. Geologic Survey estimates that most of the remaining glacial mass in Glacier Park was accumulated during the Little Ice Age, and as global temperatures have recovered and continued to recover from that uncharacteristically global cold spell, that "the overall [temperature] threshold for maintaining glaciers was probably exceeded sometime between 1850 and the 1920s." Selkowitz, D. J., D. B. Fagre, and B. A. Reardon. 2002. Interannual variations in snowpack in the crown of the continent ecosystem. Hydrological Processes. 16:3651-3665.

    That is, the transient glaciers in the Park began their irreversible disappearance between 1850 and 1920 and that process continues today.

    The period of greatest retreat was between 1917 and 1926. The period between 1950 and 1975 saw the Park glaciers advance. Hall and Fagre, Modeled Climate-induced Glacier Change in Glacier National Park, 1850-2100. Bioscience, February, 2003.

    By 2000, 73% of the Park's Glacier's that had been documented to exist as of 1850 had already disappeared.
  2. Stan Reck
    Report Abuse
    Stan Reck - June 24, 2013 9:53 am
    What a load of BS. Max, can't you retire on another note? Wasn't Obummercare enough? This is a waste of taxpayers dollars and a perpetuation of a grand lie.
  3. Hakon Montag
    Report Abuse
    Hakon Montag - June 24, 2013 7:13 am
    "This undated photo provided by the National Park Service shows Iceberg Lake in Glacier National ParK. Scientists said in 2010 that Glacier National Park lost two more of its namesake moving icefields to climate change."

    What a load of garbage. In the ORIGINAL write-ups about Glacier National Park they knew BACK THEN that the glaciers were simply remnants of the Little Ice Age and would not be there FOREVER.

    More political BS about a scientific theory that is simply wrong.
  4. Roger
    Report Abuse
    Roger - June 24, 2013 6:52 am
    Too bad Baucus doesn't understand basic science, because then he'd know that alleged human-caused greenhouse warming is a scam designed to fleece you of your money. There's no correlation between CO2 levels and global temperatures, no warming for at least 16 years. Warming and cooling periods have been occurring for millions of years. The Medieval Warm Period was warmer than today, for example, with 30% less CO2 in the atmosphere. Cooling 1945 - 1975 elicited alarmist forecasts of an impending ice age.

    According to an article in the Smithsonian Magazine (Oct. 2012), Thomas Jefferson noticed that the climate was cooling around 1789: "Jefferson had takien note of the measurable climate change in the region: "The Chesapeake region was unmistakably cooling and becoming inhospitable to heat-loving tobacco----he considered a new crop, wheat---."
  5. PelosiGalore
    Report Abuse
    PelosiGalore - June 24, 2013 1:32 am
    Really Max? You couldn't come up with a better way to waste even more hard-earned taxpayer money on your way out the door? Go away Clowney.
  6. fomerliberal
    Report Abuse
    fomerliberal - June 23, 2013 2:35 pm
    Man Made Global warming, one of the biggest scams ever".........with a 15-year period of no net warming — an outcome that “consensus” scientists did not predict and still struggle to explain. Whatever the causes, the observed warming rate over the past 15 years is lower than the UN IPCC’s best estimate, as NASA scientist Roy Spencer has clearly demonstrated.
  7. AL KIPF
    Report Abuse
    AL KIPF - June 23, 2013 10:46 am
    Baucus continues to live the lie. He should be tried for High Crimes against the People of the United States.
  8. walter12
    Report Abuse
    walter12 - June 23, 2013 7:26 am
    Our dear retiring Senator Baucus needs to get real. There is no man-made global warming. Yes, there is sun and natured caused climate change going on all the time. This whole thing is another dodge to attempt to get silly people's minds off of these criminals, Obama and Holder. There are at least five scandals that involve this Obama and his stooge Holder, and of course, the Dems are attempting to hide them.
  9. johnny Dollar
    Report Abuse
    johnny Dollar - June 23, 2013 2:50 am
    Max has no time to fire the liars in the IRS, no time to ferret out the true behind the Benghazi stonewalling, can't be bothered with the massive mess he crated in healthcare........but he darn well will saddle us with more cost like wind farm subsidies??

    Don't let the door hit you on the way out Max. You won't be missed. Enjoy your retirement with wife number three......when you are tired of her, just sneak out and grab another one (like you did on wife number two).
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