Executive Summary

For millions of people, hunting, fishing and other outdoor traditions are an important part of life in the American West. But America's addiction to fossil fuels is coming at an enormous price, one that threatens not only people but the fish, wildlife and ecosystems that are so fundamental to the region's— and nation's—economy, culture and values.


Above all, burning coal, oil and gas is the driving force behind global warming, which will dramatically alter the western landscape if left unchecked. Indeed, the growing body of evidence that global warming is already having an impact on natural systems is a strong warning: without meaningful action to reduce now emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat trapping gases responsible for the problem, the western U.S. faces greater risks ahead. For example:

• Global warming will cause a dramatic reduction in snowpack in some areas, placing considerable strain on the region's water supply. Mountains in the Pacific Northwest are projected to lose as much as 88 percent of average snowpack by 2090; the Central Rocky Mountains could lose up to 75 percent; and parts of the Southern Rockies and the Sierra Nevada range could lose 98-100 percent.

• The past nine years (1997-2005) were the warmest years on record, and scientists project that heat waves will become more intense, more frequent and longer lasting during this century if global warming continues unabated.

Drought conditions are expected to become more extreme in some areas as higher average temperatures contribute to increased evaporation rates. The current drought plaguing the West is the worst in 500 years and has drastically reduced available water resources for people and wildlife alike.

• Warmer average winter temperatures and less frost are expected to increase the rate, intensity and extent of invasive species, pest and disease outbreaks throughout the region. If warming trends continue as projected, forest die-offs due to pine bark beetles and other pests are expected to become even worse than the recent devastating epidemics.

Hunting, fishing and other outdoor traditions are an important part of life in the American West. (Natural Resources Conservation Service)

• Warmer, drier conditions due to global warming have caused a four-fold increase in the number of major wildfires in western forests and a six-fold increase in the area of forest burned since the mid-1980s. Scientists predict that the overall area of acreage burned by wildfires will double in size across 11 western states between 2070-2100. States hit particularly hard include Montana, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico.

• Big sagebrush habitats throughout the western U.S. could decline by 59 percent before the end of this century, which would have devastating consequences for sage grouse, mule deer, pronghorn and other species that depend on them.

• A continuing trend toward higher stream temperatures would significantly reduce viable habitat for trout, salmon and other cold-water fish across the West. The Rocky Mountain region alone could see the area of suitable habitat for cold-water fish decline by 50 percent if average July temperatures rise 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit.

• Global warming poses a significant threat to the region's diverse wetlands, including areas that provide critical breeding and wintering habitat for waterfowl. The Prairie Pothole Region could see as much as a 91-percent reduction in prairie pothole wetlands by the 2080s, resulting in up to 69-percent reduction in the abundance of ducks breeding there.

• High-elevation species are particularly vulnerable to global warming given the fact that they have limited space available to find new habitats as higher average temperatures push them farther up in the mountains. Wildlife species at risk include mountain goats, bighorn sheep and ptarmigan.

• There is growing concern that the accelerating pace of change will put alarming numbers of species on the path to extinction. Global warming is projected to reduce boreal habitat in all of the mountain ranges of the Great Basin region, contributing to a 44-percent loss of mammal species, a 23-percent loss of butterfly species, a 30-percent loss of perennial grasses and forbs and a 17-percent loss of shrub species.

Making matters worse is the fact that many continuing problems in the American West, including habitat fragmentation, invasive species and growing demands for water resources, have degraded wildlife habitat and reduced the resiliency of wildlife species to cope with the impacts of global warming that are already underway. Ultimately, it is the combination of global warming and these other human-induced problems that will fundamentally change the West's unique and diverse natural systems unless the region and nation takes a much more concerted effort to implement solutions.



Over-dependence on fossil fuels has also had a direct impact on the western landscape through extensive oil and gas development, destroying unique and important habitats for fish and wildlife. There are currently more than 850,000 oil and gas wells strewn across the 33 states, mostly in the West (including Alaska), with proposals to drill countless more waiting in the wings.

Within the past decade, energy companies have proposed and begun projects to drill on millions of additional acres in the West that provide essential habitat for fish and wildlife, facilitated in part by recent federal government efforts to reduce important environmental protections.

The total number of permits approved by the Bureau of Land Management for drilling on public lands tripled (from 1,803-6,399) between fiscal years 1999-2004, with the most activity occurring in Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. A recent General Accounting Office analysis found that this dramatic increase significantly lessened the Bureau's ability to meet its environmental protection responsibilities. In many cases, these projects pose a serious threat to some of the region's most popular game species, including sage grouse, mule deer, pronghorn antelope and elk.



Fortunately, solutions are at hand. Effective and affordable technologies are available that can significantly improve the energy efficiency of buildings, appliances, cars and trucks. In addition, clean, renewable energy sources such as the sun, wind and biofuels are becoming increasingly affordable and have tremendous potential to diversify the region's and nation's energy portfolio. It is time to re-tap the pioneering spirit that built America and forge a new energy frontier for generations to come. A meaningful strategy should include the following actions:

1. Place significant, mandatory limits on U.S. global warming pollution.

2. Reduce the nation's overall dependence on fossil fuels through greater in vestments in energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies.

3. Implement strategies to help wildlife survive the effects of global warming that are already underway.

4. Promote strong wildlife stewardship as an important part of a new energy future.

This community in Rancho Cordova, California, is comprised of "Zero Energy Homes," which have both solar generation technology and improved energy efficiency capabilities. (Sacramento Municipal Utility District)

With a resounding voice and determination, people can change the forecast for fish and wildlife in the West and ensure that their children and grandchildren will have the same opportunities to fish, hunt, and enjoy the natural world they know and love. By acting now to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and invest in cleaner, more sustainable energy resources, the United States will take the single most important conservation action of the 21st century.

Solar Panel Basics

Solar Panel Basics

Global warming is a huge problem which will significantly affect every country in the world. Many people all over the world are trying to do whatever they can to help combat the effects of global warming. One of the ways that people can fight global warming is to reduce their dependence on non-renewable energy sources like oil and petroleum based products.

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