Climate change is expected to impact many species and habitats in Washington’s South Cascades. With potential increases in wildfires, insects, high flow events, and mortality from drought, as well as shifts to plant and animal communities, climate impacts pose a threat to both aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems.
Our recently published Wildlife and Climate Resilience Guidebook outlines strategies and recommendations to improve resilience and help ecosystems and communities adapt to the impacts of climate change. For the creation of this guide, we worked with regional scientists and local partners to identify priority restoration and conservation strategies. We also carried out habitat analyses to better understand the needs and areas of risk in our region. By outlining specific priorities and projects that are applicable at the planning level of the national forest, we hope this guidebook will serve as a blueprint for forest managers and conservation organizations, including ourselves. The strategies and recommendations sections of the guidebook include details for on-the-ground restoration projects, policy initiatives, monitoring priorities, and collaborative partnerships. Our intent is to work with communities and partners to more effectively protect, restore, and maintain healthy ecosystems in the heart of the Cascades.
Below are maps and project highlights from our climate guidebook. These maps and images can also be found in the chapters outlined above.
Among the changes that are expected to impact the forests of the region, wildfires are likely to increase and cause damage to current habitat. Although there are important benefits to wildland fires, the expected increases in size and severity will likely bring significant negative consequences for forest species and ecosystems.
Connectivity is important for ensuring that species have mobility and new habitat areas to move into and through when disturbances such as fire, drought, and insects impact current habitat patches.
Partnerships are critical for climate adaptation. Ecosystem impacts pay no heed to administrative boundaries, so cross-boundary collaboration will be integral for building lasting resilience. Citizen involvement is also critical for efforts to build resilience in the ecosystems of Washington’s South Cascades. Community members can work with agencies and conservation organizations to take part in field surveys and restoration projects. The local communities located around the Gifford Pinchot National Forest will be directly impacted by climate change. Wildfires can reduce air quality or burn structures at the forest-residential interface, loss of snow can impact recreation tourism, drier summers can affect agriculture, warming waters can degrade fishing opportunities, and high flow events can wash out roads, reduce water quality, or flood croplands. There are, however, ways to mitigate and decrease the likelihood of some of these costly events. And through these mitigation efforts, there are economic opportunities for local communities in the form of restoration work and other jobs in the forest.
Forests and rivers benefit local communities in many different ways, such as supplying drinking water, clean air, recreation opportunities, harvest opportunities for forest products, and various economic opportunities through maintenance, restoration, harvesting, and tourism. The forests of the southern Washington Cascades also offer future economic opportunities through carbon sequestration in future carbon markets.
Forest jobs are an integral part of the heritage of many communities that live within and around the forests of the Pacific Northwest. With the potential for significant job creation, resilience-building projects in the southern Washington Cascades should be prioritized for local community members, businesses, and contractors. Potential employment includes stewardship contracting, road maintenance and decommissioning, forest and river restoration, preparation steps for prescribed burning, and planting of diverse tree species in anticipation of climate change. Moreover, employment associated with the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management contributes significantly to local economies.