Kerry Kemp, Jarod Blades, P. Zion Klos, Troy E. Hall, Jo Ellen Force, Penelope Morgan, Wade T. Tinkham
Year Published:

Cataloging Information

Fire & Climate

NRFSN number: 12997
Record updated: April 20, 2017

Recent mandates in the United States require federal agencies to incorporate climate change science into land management planning efforts. These mandates target possible adaptation and mitigation strategies. However, the degree to which climate change is actively being considered in agency planning and management decisions is largely unknown. We explored the usefulness of climate change science for federal resource managers, focusing on the efficacy of potential adaptation strategies and barriers limiting the use of climate change science in adaptation efforts. Our study was conducted in the northern Rocky Mountains region of the western United States, where we interacted with 77 U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management personnel through surveys, semistructured interviews, and four collaborative workshops at locations across Idaho and Montana. We used a mixed-methods approach to evaluate managers’ perceptions about adapting to and mitigating for climate change. Although resource managers incorporate general language about climate change in regional and landscape-level planning documents, they are currently not planning on-the-ground adaptation or mitigation projects. However, managers felt that their organizations were most likely to adapt to climate change through use of existing management strategies that are already widely implemented for other non climate–related management goals. These existing strategies, (e.g., thinning and prescribed burning) are perceived as more feasible than new climate-specific methods (e.g., assisted migration) because they already have public and agency support, accomplish multiple goals, and require less anticipation of the future timing and probability of climate change impacts. Participants reported that the most common barriers to using climate change information included a lack of management-relevant climate change science, inconsistent agency guidance, and insufficient time and resources to access, interpret, and apply current climate science information to management plans.


Kemp, K. B., J. J. Blades, P. Z. Klos, T. E. Hall, J. E. Force, P. Morgan, and W. T. Tinkham. 2015. Managing for climate change on federal lands of the western United States: perceived usefulness of climate science, effectiveness of adaptation strategies, and barriers to implementation. Ecology and Society 20(2): 17.

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