Outdoor: Is climate change affecting PA hunting and fishing?

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The dry wetland is pictured northeast of Port Matilda on July 20, 2020.

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It is mid October and we have yet to experience any frost in my center county trough. Not only that, the lowest for the most recent nights was in the 50s and 60s, not the 40s or 30s, which would be more typical for this time of year. While I am enjoying the long gardening season, it has been too hot to hunt deer. I know this weather is unusual for our area of ​​Pennsylvania.

Since the beginning of June, the stream that crosses my property has experienced four floods. The June 13 flood, following more than 3 inches of rain, in addition to an inch the day before, ranked as one of the biggest floods in the over 40 years I’ve lived here. Three more floods, of the usual caliber every two to three years, have occurred since then. September 2021 was a near-record month for precipitation in Center County. Lake Raystown’s level was raised 12 feet (4 feet below the record) on September 2, as the dam held back more than 20 billion gallons of water – rain from Hurricane Ida.

Last summer we experienced one of the worst droughts in western Center County. The streams were extremely low or dry – the trout perished. The wetlands northeast of Port Matilda, owned by the Wildlife for Everyone Foundation, were completely dry. Migrating water birds couldn’t stop there to refuel, as they usually do.

The examples above are local examples – nationwide, you only need to check the news to see that drought-fueled wildfires have destroyed over 600,000 acres of Utah’s forests this year. California wildfires are still raging – with over 2 million acres and thousands of structures destroyed.

As I write these lines, I know that (unfortunately) some of my readers – climate change deniers – will laugh at this column. I also realize that my examples could be interpreted as local variations. I am waiting for standard emails for this purpose. Fortunately, polls show that an ever-increasing number of people are alarmed at how climate change is promoting extreme weather events and the big changes in weather patterns that affect their outside world. If you are hunting or fishing, you should also be alarmed.

Climate change is real. The average temperature of the earth has risen by 2 degrees over the past 50 years and the sea level has risen. The Earth’s temperature has fluctuated for eons, but good scientific evidence supports that we humans are at least partly responsible for this current warming trend.

As an example, I have spoken to many hunters who complain about how ticks affect their favorite sport. Ticks weren’t even a consideration in my youth and for most of my adult life. However, I have contracted Lyme disease or anaplasmosis from tick bites three times in the past four years. Ticks were primarily a southern species and weren’t on my radar – now I think about ticks almost every time I go out.

In February of this year, more than 40 leading sports organizations drafted a climate statement calling on decision-makers (our elected officials) to tackle climate change. These organizations include the Ruffed Grouse Society, Pheasants Forever, the American Fisheries Society, the National Wild Turkey Federation, the Wildlife Management Institute, and the National Deer Association.

These are not liberal left-wing groups, but rather scientific organizations that recognize and understand how climate change has and will continue to negatively impact hunting and fishing.

Last week, the National Wildlife Federation released a 38-page report, “A Hunter’s and Angler’s Guide to Climate Change: Challenges, Opportunities and Solutions,” detailing the problem. More importantly, the report discusses what we can do about it.

“Whether it’s the draining of our favorite duck swamps, a wildfire shutting down our best elk sites, degrading ocean conditions crippling our pursuits of salmon and rainbow trout. , or flooding into our beloved white tail bottoms, we know it’s not a matter of if, but when, climate change will find our favorite places and change our sporting lives, ”said Aaron Kindle, National Wildlife Federation director of sports advocacy in the report’s introduction.

Contrary to what you might hear from the fossil fuel industry, limiting our production of carbon dioxide and sequestering more carbon doesn’t mean we need to go back to a “dark age” society.

The National Wildlife Federation report examines pending legislation and effective solutions that are already being used to restore natural infrastructure – wetlands, forests, rivers and grasslands – to support wildlife and protect communities. As the report notes, “the most logical, cost-effective and sustainable solutions are often those that harness and increase the power of natural systems and restore developed and degraded landscapes and rivers. And best of all, these types of solutions improve hunting and fishing.

Better farming practices, coupled with restoring natural infrastructure, could sequester hundreds of billions of tons of carbon over the next 40 years – more than what could be released by burning 225 billion gallons of gasoline.

The report features successes that are already happening along the Mississippi River in the Pacific Northwest, the Great Plains prairies, the Florida Everglades, and offshore wind power in New England, as well as others.

Five climate policies that we can know and defend are described in the report. All of these projects involve the restoration of natural infrastructure, such as the recently completed habitat project in the upper Bald Eagle Creek watershed.

Finally, the NWF report is a call to action for hunters and fishermen. As Kindle wrote, “We can and must make our voices heard to promote and implement strategies, policies and good ideas that fight climate change and save hunting and fishing for generations to come. to come. “


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