Lawmakers Introduce SAFE Act to Protect Natural Resources From Climate Disasters

By Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer

On Wednesday, U.S. Representative Matt Cartwright (D-PA-08) and U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) introduced the Safeguarding America’s Future and Environment (SAFE) Act to protect natural resources and wildlife from climate change. The bill would build on current efforts at every level of government and require federal agencies to work together to create and implement conservation and management strategies to mitigate extreme weather and climate change. Advocates say that passing the bill would be a significant step in protecting 30% of lands and waters by 2030 and ending the biodiversity crisis.

Why This Matters: As temperatures rise and extreme weather becomes more common, the nation’s natural resources are increasingly at risk. In 2020, 22 climate disasters cost the American economy more than $1 billion each. Large sectors of the U.S. economy are now in danger, including tourism, fishing, and outdoor recreation.

More extreme weather is likely locked into our future, even as we work to reduce emissions and slow warming. Some experts say that climate adaptation is a “gaping hole in American environmental policy.” The SAFE Act would be the first step to closing that gap.

Big Change, Big Plans

“The climate is changing, pushing the planet’s finite natural resources and wildlife to the brink,” said Senator Whitehouse. “We need a national strategy to protect the natural resources that underpin our economy, food systems, and public health.” The SAFE Act would require federal natural resource agencies to form an interagency working group to plan and implement a science-based national climate adaptation strategy. The act also calls for partnerships with state, local, and tribal governments, nongovernmental organizations, academic institutions, and private sector representatives. Already, environmental advocates are showing support for the bill.

Defenders of Wildlife, The Wilderness Society, World Wildlife Foundation, and The Wildlife Society have all endorsed the SAFE Act. Carol Chambers, President of The Wildlife Society, said that the bill would open productive lines of communication between the government and conservationists. “A renewed national climate strategy targeting adaptation mechanisms for the nation’s natural resources is a vital step in ensuring the conservation of America’s at-risk species,” she said. “This approach will allow for wildlife professionals to work with multiple stakeholders and local communities to adapt to the climate crisis and ensure a future for our wildlife resources.”

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