Conservationist: Colorado sees climate change effects |

Conservationist: Colorado sees climate change effects

Judith Kohler
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

DENVER – The head of one of the country’s largest conservation groups is warning that Colorado is in the “bull’s eye of climate change” and says the state’s hunters and anglers are seeing firsthand the effects of warmer temperatures.

Larry Schweiger, National Wildlife Federation president and chief executive, is visiting Colorado and other states to rally support for federal legislation addressing climate change by mandating cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.

The U.S. House has passed a bill, but the Senate hasn’t considered one yet.

“We’re working very hard right now to help the Senate move a climate bill to final passage,” Schweiger said, “so I’ve been spending a lot my time going into important states.”

Schweiger said he believes the National Wildlife Federation provides an important voice on the issue because the group’s political make closely parallels the country’s. “We have as many Republicans as we have Democrats and independents,” he said last week.

The group also includes hunters and anglers who have been relating for a while the changes they see in the streams, vegetation and wildlife because of warmer or dryer weather, Schweiger said.

“They see when the water temperatures go up high enough, that they’re killing off the cold-water fisheries in the mountains or the Great Lakes,” Schweiger said.

Scientists have reported threats to the great stretches of sagebrush in the West that support pronghorn antelopes, sage grouse and other wildlife. Schweiger writes in his new book on climate change, “Last Chance: Preserving Life on Earth,” that woody plants moving north as the weather warms could crowd out sagebrush.

Colorado is already in the “bull’s eye of climate change,” Schweiger said, because of the 3 million pine trees ravaged by bark beetles. Biologists say the beetles, which burrow under the bark and sap a tree’s life, have been able to proliferate without long bouts of subzero weather to kill them.

Todd Malmsbury, spokesman for the Colorado Wildlife Federation, agrees that the state’s hunters and anglers have seen changes because of warmer weather.

“During elk season, when the temperatures are warm, they’re finding the animals at higher and higher elevations,” Malmsbury said.

Because of the changes, many hunters and anglers support doing something about climate change and giving state and federal agencies the resources to deal with the impacts already occurring, Malmsbury said.

Schweiger, who attended the U.N.-sponsored climate change summit in Copenhagen, said he believes the Senate will pass a bill clamping down on greenhouse gases, produced by burning fossil fuels and blamed for heating the atmosphere. He sees Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., as a leader who will persuade other Republicans to help pass a bill.

Schweiger acknowledged concerns of states heavily dependent on coal, which emits more carbon dioxide than natural gas, and states that don’t think they could generate enough power from renewable energy. He said a successful bill likely will have to include provisions for nuclear power and technology aimed at cutting emissions from coal.

“It is the bill I would write? No,” Schweiger said. “But it’s the bill that would get passed, and that’s what this is all about.”

National Wildlife Federation:

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