Climate Change is Here.
Here is what we can do about it.
KS Wild was founded to defend and restore the biological diversity, wild places, and at-risk species in the Klamath-Siskiyou region in 1997. Since that time, climate change has emerged as the leading threat to KS Wild’s mission. KS Wild’s Climate Program engages policy makers and land managers at the local, state, and federal levels to take bold action to prevent the worst impacts of climate change. This program also advances on-the-ground projects that prepare our region for coming changes, including the increased risk of wildfire, drought, and floods brought on by extreme weather.
Climate change is already happening. It is the issue of our time. Even if we stopped pumping greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere tomorrow, climate change is with us. For the West Coast of the U.S., nearly all of the hottest summers on record have been in the past five years. While we take action to stop climate change, we also need to help adapt our communities and environments to the changes that are already taking place.
What can we do?
Keep Carbon in the Forest: First thing first: we need to keep carbon in the ground and in the forest. Just like fossil fuels in the ground, trees store carbon in the forest. The forests in our region have some of the largest stores of carbon in the world. Protecting these forests – especially the large, centuries-old trees – will keep carbon out of the atmosphere. Cutting down the big trees releases this carbon store. Research shows us that older forests store more carbon than young forests, so we also need to stop converting old forests into young tree plantations. Fuel treatments such as thinning and prescribed fire do not increase carbon storage because they emit more carbon than they prevent. However, to restore forest resiliency, we advocate for strategic fuels treatments and the use of more prescribed fire.
Can We Manage to Prepare for Climate Change?
“Good forest management in a time of rapidly changing climate differs little from good forest management under more static conditions, but there is increased emphasis on protecting climatic refugia and providing connectivity.”
―REED NOSS, “Beyond Kyoto” (2002)
Smart land management will be the primary means to stave off the worst effects of climate change for ecological communities. Action must be swift, however. KS Wild works proactively and collaboratively in local communities and with land managers to advance projects that utilize the most important steps for protecting the unique biological heritage of the Klamath-Siskiyou region in the era of climate change.
KS Wild’s Climate Strategy
Protect and restore the most important habitats in the era of climate change. Actions include:
Protect Mature and Old-growth Forests.
Safeguard streams and rivers that provide cold water.
Ensure that plant and wildlife habitats missing in protected areas (wilderness, parks, etc) are conserved.
Manage for climate refuges - areas that will buffer the impacts of climate change.
Advance landscape planning and forestry that prepares for climate change. Actions include:
Apply fuels reduction, especially prescribed fire, in dry forests to reduce competition, drought stress, and risk of high-severity fire.
Retain old live trees, large snags, and large logs, and restore native plants.
Minimize soil disturbance, the loss of carbon from soil, the introduction of invasive species, road-building, and the size of forest canopy openings.
Prevent conversion of forests to even-aged, single species tree plantations. Tree plantations have low biodiversity and are more vulnerable to severe fire and pest outbreaks.
Restore complex young forests that originate after disturbance in older forest, because of high species richness, especially flowers, shrubs and pollinators.
The single most important action land managers can take is to reduce existing non-climate stressors (e.g., habitat fragmentation, erosion from roads and resource extraction, air and water pollution and contamination, loss of key species, spread of invasive species, livestock overgrazing, and the loss of natural habitats).
Climate change has also increased occurrence and severity of wildfire, resulting in legislative proposals, land management projects, and policy platforms that would harm forests through increased industrial logging. KS Wild is pushing back against these ill-conceived proposals.
KS Wild’s Climate Program addresses the threat of climate change, and to proactively engage with communities, decision makers, and allies to support climate adaptation in our region.
Projected Climate Impacts
When we look at the future climate projections from scientists and zoom into southern Oregon and northern California, this is what we see: it is going to get hotter. We will see about the same amount of rain, but less snow. With the heat, our landscape will be drier, and likely to see more wildfire.
Increasing summertime temperatures may lead to droughts, low flows in salmon bearing streams, stress on populations of plants and animals, and the doubling of effects of other ecosystem stressors.
Temps increase: 1–3°F by 2040, 4–8°F by 2080. More days over 100°F.
Precipitation shifts to spring/summer; from snow to rain in winter.
Severe storms lead to flooding. Decrease coastal fog.
Increased drought. Higher temps will lead to drying of vegetation.
Increased risk of large, high-intensity wildfire.
Stream temperatures increase. Decrease in summer flows with less snowmelt.
Stream sediment increase due to more erosion from storms and wildfires.
By 2080, snowpack in the Klamath-Siskiyou may be negligible.