Over the last year, a Northeast Climate Change Working Group was established to guide project efforts and provide regional exchange of current information and priorities to and from state fish and wildlife agencies. Monthly coordination with states provided NECASC (and other regional partner) updates to state fish and wildlife agency State Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP) coordinators and members of the Northeast Fish and Wildlife Diversity Technical Committee (NEFWDTC). Information on their climate change needs was solicited monthly as we facilitated discussion on current state efforts and needs. Follow up with individual state staff provided more detailed information. Together with the results of the SWAP Synthesis (of the 14 State Wildlife Action Plans), as well as the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agency (AFWA) national survey, we continued to identify barriers and needs for climate change information in the northeast. We presented this information monthly, and at fall 2018 and 2019 spring annual meetings of Northeast Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (NEAFWA) conference and the NEFWDTC committee meeting in order to refine and summarize their needs.
Results from the 2018-2019 coordination with states and detailed review of the 2018 AFWA national survey indicate that northeast states highest priority information needs include terrestrial and aquatic habitat connectivity and conservation, invasive species, and sea level rise. Adaptive capacity and tracking of phenology, precipitation, temperature changes drought, water quality/quantity, and effectiveness measures and recreational values are all identified as information needs as well. Northeast states indicated that their lowest priority climate-related information needs were fire and green infrastructure, although specific questions about solar installations displacing natural wildlife habitats are emerging.
Northeast states indicate that lack of staff time, expertise, capacity and funding are the key barriers inhibiting development and implementation of adaptation efforts. They most wanted climate change information delivered via syntheses products as well as workshops/webinars and local training. Northeast states indicated that at least half the states had conducted species and/or habitat vulnerability assessments and incorporated CC adaptation into agency management plans, primarily the SWAP. We also learned that the 14 northeast states rely heavily on NECASC for CC information. Specifically, multiple states expressed use of the 2015 DOI Northeast Climate Science Center report (Staudinger et al. 2015) and all referred to it in their 2015 SWAP revisions.
Karen Terwilliger, a career natural resource professional with 40 years of experience working in the federal, state, and private sectors received the 2019 Robert McDowell Award for Conservation Management Excellence, the highest honor awarded by the Northeast Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. Ms. Terwilliger is the founder and principal of Terwilliger Consulting, Inc., based in Virginia, on the Delmarva Peninsula. Karen has offered her expertise and leadership to numerous organizations including The Wildlife Society, the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, and her local land trust. She has developed 5 states’ wildlife action plans and has led or made significant contributions to the production of numerous comprehensive conservation plans on behalf of states in the Northeast and country. Her most recent projects include developing Regional Species of Conservation need for both the Northeast and Southeast, encompassing 29 states as well as promoting the inclusion of climate change adaptation strategies at multiple planning levels.