Policy Statement on Climate Change
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Conserving Resources
for All Fish, All Waters




The mission of Fly Fishers International is to foster the legacy of fly fishing for all fish in all waters through conservation, education, and inspiring a growing community of fly fishers. We pursue this mission through teaching all aspects of fly fishing and most importantly through our advocacy and voice for conservation of our natural resources. Clearly, conservation of fishes and the wetland landscapes that support them are fundamental to our opportunities today and those of future generations.

This commitment to conservation of “All Fish, All Waters” requires that Fly Fishers International remain current and examine the impact of climate change, not just on fishes and the fresh and marine wetland systems typically thought of as fish habitat, but all natural landscapes.  The diverse plant communities that exist in these landscapes are interconnected ecologically and range from upland forests to coastal wetlands, estuaries, and oceans.  The wetland communities that support our fisheries can only be properly conserved by also protecting the health of the upland watersheds that recharge, nourish, and buffer our wetland landscapes.

Fly Fishers International policy on Public Lands and Waters of the United States reinforces this commitment as it says, in part, these habitats “…collectively are much more valuable than simply as wetlands, watersheds and fish habitat.”  This statement, although focused on public lands and waters, applies to all natural landscapes. Moreover, the Policy speaks to the broader values of public lands and waters that apply to all natural landscapes saying, “these are the habitats of a vast array of wildlife, plant, and insect species, including those that may be threatened or endangered with extinction across our country. What must not be forgotten is that these very landscapes of minerals, waters and plants are essential to our own quality of life as human habitat. These are the landscapes that grow the plant communities that produce the clean air we breathe and process carbon dioxide into oxygen. The wetlands that clean and recharge our sources of fresh water are necessary to our lives. There is no question that these lands must be protected for our recreational interests and our own quality of life as humans.”

Climate Change and Its Impact

Our knowledge and understanding of climate change and its causes and effects on the natural world continue to evolve. This is the nature of scientific inquiry. However, there is now clear consensus within the scientific community that climate change is real, change is occurring at rates that exceed those of history, and human-caused carbon emissions into the atmosphere are contributing to this accelerated rate of global climate change.

Climate change has always been a part of the evolution of our natural world, but natural rates of change occurred in magnitudes of geologic time. It is now recognized conclusively that the earth’s climate is warming at rates that can be measured from one decade to another. It further is understood that this warming is being accelerated by human activities; particularly significant increases in carbon dioxide emissions that accumulate as “greenhouse gases”.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration reports that the impact of climate change and warming is seen in rising temperatures across the globe, the   warming of the world’s oceans, the shrinking of the polar ice sheets and glaciers, decreased snow cover, rising sea levels, increasing frequency of extreme weather events, and ocean acidification, among others.

These and other “…cascading effects…” of climate change are “…affecting our natural resources, fish and wildlife and outdoor opportunities…” according to a 2012 Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership report.5 Similar findings were reported with modeled projections and solutions during a Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership Policy Climate Summit in February, 2020.6 It is beyond the scope of this policy statement to enumerate all those factors but some examples that should be of particular concern to fly fishers follow.

The effects of unchecked climate change on freshwater fishes, particularly cold water fish, will be dramatic. Changes in water temperature and reduced flows will cause the loss of trout and salmon habitat, reducing their distribution from historic locations and overall abundance where they will survive.7 Warm water fish will also be impacted as they are stressed by drought and drastic fluctuations in water levels. Their ranges have already changed as they move into waters previously inhabited solely by cold water species of fish. Other concerns include the spread of exotic species and invasive plant and animal species due to warmer water temperatures that are more conducive to establishment of non-native  species.

Marine fishes and their habitats are also at risk. Rising sea levels threaten coastal areas resulting in a loss of warm coastal waters and riparian and upland communities. Warmer waters, decreased levels of dissolved oxygen, and higher salinity will modify water chemistry and affect the distribution of saltwater species and their ability to reproduce. Marine fisheries will be adversely effected by inundation of coastal marshlands and loss of sea grass beds caused by rising sea levels and severe weather events.

FFI’s Position

It is the policy of Fly Fishers International to advocate scientifically sound public policies, management practices and educational efforts to minimize and mitigate accelerated rates of climate changes caused by human activities. Most important to these efforts are the positive steps that must be taken to move our nation and encourage other nations toward a more carbon-free energy economy by minimizing the burning of fossil fuels.

A global commitment must be made to actions that reduce the atmospheric carbons that have already accumulated at densities that are adversely impacting life on the planet. 

Conserving the health and function of natural landscapes and plant communities as habitat for fish and wildlife is our most important commitment to protect the well-being of the planet and our human quality of life.9 The plants, soils and waters that make up fish and wildlife habitats throughout the world naturally sequester carbons from the atmosphere.  The plants of these communities do this naturally through photosynthesis.9

Therefore, carbon sequestration by our forest, grassland, and wetland systems must be a priority factor in decision making for restoration and management of these natural landscapes in order to benefit fish and wildlife, as well as people. Landscapes of high value to sequestration of carbon for the planet support healthy populations of fish and wildlife.9

The current trend toward accelerated global warming is changing our natural world in a way that will not sustain our quality of life and will negatively impact our enjoyment of our natural world. FFI supports policies and actions that mitigate the adverse effects of climate change that will provide a healthier and more vibrant natural world.

FFI Advocates Specific Actions

  • Inform and raise awareness among fly fishers and others who enjoy the outdoors of the impacts of climate change on fishes and their habitats so that they may, as an informed citizenry, assume personal responsibility, and support local, regional and global actions that mitigate rates of climate change.
  • Support and encourage conservation policies and practices that mitigate the effects of climate change on all habitats. All habitat conservation planning must include evaluation of project effects on climate change. 
  • All mitigation efforts must consider the processes by which different plants store sequestered carbon and consider these differences in how each plant community is managed.
  • Natural landscapes of diverse plant communities that are dedicated for conservation in the public interest must be protected as “public policy” from practices that degrade their added values of sequestration; such practices include but are not limited to clear-cut logging, new road construction, overgrazing, surface mining, and de-watering of wetlands.
  • Wetlands, riparian, and coastal communities should be restored and protected as natural buffers and protection from flooding and storm events.
  • Definitions of Waters of the United States must not be modified in any way that compromises the health and function of wetland communities and their upland watersheds.
  • High priority must be placed on agency collaboration and funding to meet needs for fully embracing the New Conservation Paradigm for retention, addition and management of natural landscapes. Such collaboration must focus on community added value, function and connectivity.
  • New narratives should be developed to inform and maintain public support for embracing the New Conservation Paradigm to conserve natural landscapes in the public interest.
  • The New Conservation Paradigm for natural landscapes in the United States should be promoted as a model for global adoption and implementation.
  • Plant communities of marine environments that include mangroves, seagrasses, salt marshes, and kelp forests are very important components of this worldwide conservation strategy because they sequester many times more CO2 than upland forests. These “blue carbon” systems must be included in our broader conservation strategy of conserving natural landscapes as carbon “sinks” that support populations of fish and wildlife.
  • Advocate laws, public policy, and practices that address climate change through our participation in strategic conservation partnerships and FFI conservation actions.
  • Encourage Fly Fishers International’s Councils, Clubs, members, and our fly fishing community to become informed and support local programs and public policies that address climate change issues.

Selected References

1Fly Fishers International Policy on Public Lands and Waters of the United States. 2017. www.flyfishersinternational.org/Conservation/Policies

2Joint Science Academies Statement: Global Response to Climate Change. 2005. http://nationalacademies.org/onpi/06072005.pdf

3National Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society. 2008. Climate Change Evidence and Causes reports on Climate Change. http://nas-sites.org/americasclimatechoices/

4National Aeronautics and Space Administration. 2108. Global Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet. https://climate.nasa.gov

5Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. 2012. Sportsmen and Climate Change: A Long Hard Look at Reality. http://www.trcp.org/2012/08/14/sportsmen-and-climate- change-a-long-hard-look-at-reality/

6Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. 2020. TRCP Policy Council Climate Summit – A Summary of Presentations and Discussions. Cambridge, Maryland. 55 pp.

7California Trout Inc. 2017. State of the Salmonids II: Fish in Hot

8Wildlife Management Institute. 2008. Seasons End: Global Warmings Threat to Hunting and Fishing. https://wildlifemanagement.institute/outdoor-news-bulletin/june- 2008/climate-change-report-hunters-and-anglers-now-available

9Fly Fishers International.  A New Conservation Paradigm or Conserving Fish and Wildlife Habitats for the Planet White Paper. Tom H. Logan, Chairman, FFI Board Conservation Committee Kathleen A. Bergeron, V.P. Conservation, FFI Southeastern Council Brad W. Eaton, Vice Chairman, FFI Board Conservation Committee. 2023.


FFI Board Conservation Committee on June 5, 2023

FFI Board of Directors on July 17, 2023