Feds stir debate in bid to help refuges cope with climate change

By Michael Doyle | 02/23/2024 01:16 PM EST

The Fish and Wildlife Service’s proposed regulation aims to help managers address the specific changes caused by a warming climate on their refuges.

Bayou Sauvage Urban National Wildlife Refuge.

A black-necked stilt walks through the marsh in the Bayou Sauvage Urban National Wildlife Refuge in New Orleans on April 26, 2023. Gerald Hebert/AP

The Fish and Wildlife Service has caused quite a buzz with its proposal to lock in certain protections for the nation’s sprawling and increasingly climate-sensitive refuge system.

With two weeks left in a public comment period, the federal agency has already fielded more than 17,000 wildly diverse written responses. The outpouring is likely to grow much larger before the March 4 comment deadline expires, as the public sorts through the FWS’s proposal for protecting what it calls the refuge system’s “biological integrity, diversity and environmental health.”
FWS’s proposal

Some hear that phrase and see red.


“This new policy is a grave misstep,” declared Rep. Bruce Westerman, the Arkansas Republican who chairs the House Natural Resources Committee, adding that “this bureaucratic red tape will only serve to restrict effective habitat management and limit hunting opportunities and public access.”