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Understanding Climate Adaptation on Public Lands in the Upper Midwest: Implications for Monitoring and Tracking Progress

Abstract

There are limited examples of efforts to systematically monitor and track climate change adaptation progress in the context of natural resource management, despite substantial investments in adaptation initiatives. To better understand the status of adaptation within state natural resource agencies, we utilized and problematized a rational decision-making framework to characterize adaptation at the level of public land managers in the Upper Midwest. We conducted in-depth interviews with 29 biologists and foresters to provide an understanding of managers’ experiences with, and perceptions of, climate change impacts, efforts towards planning for climate change, and a full range of actions implemented to address climate change. While the majority of managers identified climate change impacts affecting their region, they expressed significant uncertainty in interpreting those signals. Just under half of managers indicated planning efforts are underway, although most planning is remote from local management. Actions already implemented include both forward-looking measures and those aimed at coping with current impacts. In addition, cross-scale dynamics emerged as an important theme related to the overall adaptation process. The results hold implications for tracking future progress on climate change adaptation. Common definitions or measures of adaptation (e.g., presence of planning documents) may need to be reassessed for applicability at the level of public land managers.

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Acknowledgments

The authors greatly appreciate project assistance and review by Suzanne Hagell, Mike Larson, Catherine Harris, Tara Bergeson, Alan Crossley, Andy Paulios, Greg Edge, Colleen Matula, Mike Dockry, Maria Janowiak, Jordan Petchenik, William D. Walker, Bob Holsman, Kim Hall, Chris Hoving, Clarence Turner, Earl Flegler, and Amy Clark Eagle. We thank interview participants for their valuable time and insights. We thank the two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and suggestions. Support for this work was provided by the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes Landscape Conservation Cooperative and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Bureau of Science Services.

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Correspondence to Christine M. Anhalt-Depies.

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Anhalt-Depies, C.M., Knoot, T.G., Rissman, A.R. et al. Understanding Climate Adaptation on Public Lands in the Upper Midwest: Implications for Monitoring and Tracking Progress. Environmental Management 57, 987–997 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00267-016-0673-7

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Keywords

  • Adaptation tracking
  • Climate change adaptation
  • Cross-scale dynamics
  • Decision making
  • Public lands