Chippewa Responds To Climate Change Scorecard

The mission of the USDA Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the Nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations…. what does that mean in a changing climate? Five out of the last 6 years set new high temperature records globally. Across the country we are seeing changing precipitation patterns, more extreme storms, and earlier growing seasons. A warmer climate is increasing the frequency and extent of droughts, insect outbreaks, and wildfires. We have learned through our science management collaborations that past management practices do not achieve the same outcomes they did under more stable climate regimes of the last century. Increased disturbances to forests have increased ecological, social, and economic effects.

The Forest Service is building upon the capacity and knowledge gained from the Climate Change Performance Scorecard with what is being called the next phase of our climate journey, the “Sustainability Scorecard”. The objective of this effort is to move the Agency’s climate response from building climate change awareness to implementing climate-informed, sustainable management decisions. At the November FLT meeting, results of the 2019 pilot year reporting under the Sustainability Scorecard were reviewed. Strengths, weaknesses, and the path forward were the topic under consideration.

Among the Chippewa’s strengths are strong ties to the Forest Service research branch and a number of long-term climate adaptation studies. Included in these are the Adaptive Silviculture for Climate Change (ASCC) and SPRUCE Spruce and Peatland Responses Under Changing Environments (SPRUCE) projects. ASCC seeks to evaluate our silvicultural tool kit in helping forested systems to resist, adapt, and transition to better adapted systems as our climate continues to change. SPRUCE evaluates peatland changes under climate change. Peatlands store very large amounts of carbon. Data collected by NRS on the Marcell Experimental Forest provide valuable insight to changes in growing season length as our climate changes. Since 1961 our growing season has increased from 110 to 130 days.

Climate Adaptation Training, Duluth MNThe Sustainability Scorecard helps point out weak areas on which to focus in the future. Deliberate consideration of adaptation tactics applicable to the project level, the influence of carbon stewardship in our land management decisions, and sustainable operations are all deserving of more attention. As always, employee education and engagement are key factors in setting the path forward.

Conservation has never been easy. Lack of political will and leadership to do what is right for our lands and natural resource is an age-old story and may nearly overwhelm people with despair. Folks may throw up their hands and say, “What difference can we possibly make?” The answer is: enough of a difference to keep up the fight. Don’t underestimate the potential power of one, nor the effect of many.

After seven years of serving as the Climate Change Coordinator on the Chippewa, Kelly Barrett is transitioning this role to Anna Plumb. Welcome Anna and her fresh energy. We know she will serve us well. And look for ways in which you can build meaningful consideration of climate change into your work.

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