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For Immediate Release, April 28, 2010

Contact:  Sandy Bahr, Sierra Club, (602) 999-5790 (mobile)
Louise Misztal, Sky Island Alliance, (520) 624-7080 x 19
Taylor McKinnon, Center for Biological Diversity, (928) 310-6713
Kate Mackay, Arizona Wilderness Coalition, (602) 571-2603

Forest Service Asked to Protect National Forests for a Changing Climate

Conservation Leaders Participate in Forest Service Roundtables to Develop
New Plans to Save Wildlife, Water, and Open Space

PHOENIX, Ariz.— As Arizona’s climate changes, with experts expecting hotter temperatures and longer droughts, the Sierra Club, Sky Island Alliance, Center for Biological Diversity, Arizona Wilderness Coalition, and other conservation organizations and outdoor users are calling on the U.S. Forest Service to adjust its plans to protect clean water, wildlife habitats, and outdoor opportunities on national forest lands, including the six national forests here in Arizona.

Today the Forest Service convened sessions in Phoenix to listen to ideas from the concerned public on how to revise its planning process to protect our national forests from the effects of climate change and preserve them for future generations.

“Arizona’s national forests provide clean water for millions of people and habitat for some of our most treasured and endangered species, including Mexican gray wolves, bald eagles, Kaibab squirrels, and pronghorn, among countless others, plus offer recreational opportunities including hiking and wildlife watching,” said Sandy Bahr, director of the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter. “These lands and the species that inhabit them now face significant threats, including climate change.”

Conservation and recreational groups are participating in these roundtables to ensure that the Forest Service is managing its lands to mitigate and survive climate change. Species migrations are shifting, formerly healthy populations are shrinking, and water temperatures are rising. National forest land covers 11.5 million acres in Arizona alone; the Forest Service must act now to make our lands more resilient to climate change.

“It has become clear to the resource-management, scientific, and conservation communities that protecting the natural systems wildlife and people depend on in the face of climate change will require new ways of thinking about land management,” said Louise Misztal, conservation biologist with the Sky Island Alliance in Tucson. “Now is the time for the Forest Service to ensure climate-smart management that safeguards our wildlife, water, and natural heritage.”

“New forest plans need to ensure the viability of wildlife populations and include clear, enforceable standards that help species survive and forests adjust to global warming,” said Taylor McKinnon of the Center for Biological Diversity.

The regional roundtables come on the heels of a scoping process that the Forest Service undertook and to which the conservation groups submitted detailed comments. Those comments focused specifically on ways that land management must be focused if we are going to create resilient habitats, forests, and ecosystems. In short, the new rule must apply sound science, protect fish and wildlife, address climate change, ensure accountability to the American public, preserve water and watersheds, and save America’s outdoor legacy.

“Wilderness and roadless lands – the most resilient, intact habitat left on our national forests – preserve a stronger natural barrier against nonnative species and offer wildlife a sanctuary from other biological pressures such as disease, habitat loss, and inbreeding,” says Kate Mackay, deputy director for the statewide Arizona Wilderness Coalition. “If forest managers are truly serious on protecting our wildlife and the habitat they need to survive in the face of climate change, they should be taking a hard look at the benefits of designated wilderness and their connectivity with other roadless lands.”


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