Local scientists and environmental advocates at a gathering Wednesday said Ashland has started to combat climate change, but they said it’s time to put more pressures on public land managers and prioritize science-driven actions to protect the diversity of the region.
“If we don’t think about it and pay attention to it, then our ecosystem will not make it through … for future generations,” Tim Ream of KS Wild told a group of around 50 people at a meeting sponsored by KS Wild.
The event, featuring three local researchers and two environmental advocates, discussed global warming impacts in the Klamath-Siskiyou region and the need for immediate actions to conserve the region’s natural resources.
A climate change pilot program first presented to the Rogue Basin community in 2007 predicted then the temperature could rise 1 to 4 degrees by 2040. The temperature has already increased 2.5 degrees this year, Dr. Marni Koopman of Geos Institute said, and will continue to go up 9 degrees by 2050 if things remain the same.
“We’re seeing things are changing much faster than the prediction then,” Koopman said, adding the area has already felt ecological and societal impact from climate change.
As the temperature rises, the weather gets drier. Since 2007, scientists have predicted climate change will lead to lower water quality, reduction in spawning habitat, loss of important trees, disconnection in timing among species and an increase in disease, pests and invasive species. In 2017, Southern Oregon residents have experienced loss of winter sports, increase of smoke affecting schools and tourism and agriculture.
Koopman added that for the Klamath-Siskiyou region, the impacts will be more alarming.
A 44-page report, assembled by KS Wild from 170 climate change studies, illustrates the biodiversity of the Klamath-Siskiyou ecoregion thanks to the Siskiyou range running east to west, making the area a “climate refuge” in a changing climate era.
“It turns out that this place has been a refuge for climate change in the past … so maybe this could be a place that will provide critical climate refuge in the future as well,” Ream said. “That is, if we could make the right management decision.”
Climate change could turn the ideal moist, shady condition of the Klamath-Siskiyou region into Sacramento’s weather, Koopman said. She called for a two-step solution: mitigation and adaptation.
“Imagine as this is a car crashing toward the brick wall,” she said. “The brake is mitigation — it’s going to slow you down; and the adaptation is your airbags that are going to help you survive once the impact hits.”
Of 11 million acres of the Klamath-Siskiyou region of southwest Oregon and northwest California, 8 million acre are public lands, Ream said. “Public land managers and politicians should be sending directions how these lands are being managed,” he said.
Dr. John Alexander, executive director of Klamath Bird Observatory in Ashland, offered his analysis of how birds — even common ones — are at risk due to climate change and how birds could be used as the first indicators to predict future climate trends.
“There needs to be more science injected into the land management scenario in order for us to take care of and address climate change,” Alexander said. “Are we achieving what we set out to do? One way we can measure it is to increase productivity in data management … and habitat mapping.”
With damages already being seen in the Klamath-Siskiyou region, Conservation Biologist Evan Frost of Wildwood Consulting presented his research showing, he says, the expansion of the Cascade-Siskiyou Monument makes it become resilient and increases its chance to survive environmental stressors and climate change.
The monument, originally 65,000 acres, was expanded in January under the Obama administration to protect rare plant and animal species. Conservationists had concluded the monument wasn’t large enough for species movement.
“This has created a lot more continuity, a lot more movement in the area,” Frost said. “The greater opportunity for movement, the more resilient the ecosystem becomes.”
Frost also noted the looming concern about Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s proposal to shrink Cascade-Siskiyou Monument, among other monuments.
The city of Ashland adopted a climate change action ordinance in September and appointed an ad hoc committee to implement the ordinance. Koopman said it’s the big step forward for the environment.
“The goal is to reduce emission by 8 percent per year,” she said. “We are optimistic with this step, but we still need the whole community to do their part.”
Other steps that could be taken include supporting the “cap and invest” bill on the 2018 ballot, which will create clean energy jobs in Oregon, Alan Journet of Southern Oregon Climate Action Now said.
“Our next step is public education like this — we need to get this into the hands of land managers in the area, ” Ream said. “Then figure out how that fits into changing the way we treat public land and the culture we have with public land in our society.”
— Reach Ashland Daily Tidings reporter Tran Nguyen at 541-776-4485 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on twitter @nguyenntrann.