April 28, 2021

Whitehouse-Cartwright Bill Would Establish National Strategy to Protect Natural Resources from Climate Change

With about one million plant and animal species at risk of extinction globally, a national conservation strategy is needed

Washington, DC – Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Representative Matt Cartwright (D-PA-08) today introduced a bill to protect natural resources and wildlife from the effects of climate change and increasingly frequent extreme weather events. The Safeguarding America’s Future and Environment (SAFE) Act would build on existing federal, state, and local efforts to establish an integrated national approach to environmental protection.

“The climate is changing, pushing the planet’s finite natural resources and wildlife to the brink,” said Senator Whitehouse, a senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “We need a national strategy to protect the natural resources that underpin our economy, food systems, and public health.”

“Climate change poses an immediate and long-term threat to the natural resources that so many local communities depend on,” Rep. Cartwright said. “The SAFE Act prepares us for this challenge. It will reduce long-term costs, preserve our natural resources and protect jobs that depend on the health of our environment.”

A 2019 report by the United Nations found that around one million animal and plant species are threatened with extinction.

The SAFE Act would require federal natural resource agencies to form a working group to plan and implement a long-term national climate change adaptation strategy based on the best available science. State, local, and tribal governments, as well as nongovernmental organizations, academic institutions, and private sector representatives would be called upon to lend their expertise to the group. The legislation would require agencies to identify and prioritize specific conservation and management strategies to respond to extreme weather and climate change. The development of a national strategy would guide federal adaptation plans, reduce redundancy and costs, and encourage creation of state-specific adaptation plans. The SAFE Act would also launch a National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center to develop and compile scientific information on climate variability.

Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Tom Carper (D-DE) are cosponsoring the bill in the Senate.

Organizations endorsing the SAFE Act include Defenders of Wildlife, World Wildlife Fund, and The Wildlife Society.

“A renewed national climate strategy targeting adaptation mechanisms for the nation’s natural resources is a vital step in ensuring the conservation of America’s at-risk species,” said Carol Chambers, President of The Wildlife Society. “The Wildlife Society thanks Senator Whitehouse and Representative Cartwright for their leadership in ensuring that a national climate adaptation strategy includes the latest science and interdisciplinary expertise across government and non-government bodies. This approach will allow for wildlife professionals to work with multiple stakeholders and local communities to adapt to the climate crisis and ensure a future for our wildlife resources.”

“President Biden’s Climate Summit last week emphasized that in addition to cutting emissions, we must invest in adaptation and resilience for natural ecosystems,” said Aimee Delach, senior policy analyst, climate adaptation at Defenders of Wildlife. ?“The SAFE Act is designed to do just that. This bill recognizes the countless benefits strong and resilient natural systems provide to our country’s well-being and prioritize climate change adaptation for wildlife and habitats nationwide.”

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Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921