CCI works both to defend the conservation progress that we have made in the region to date, and to push forward a strategic agenda to combat the threat of climate change to the region’s landscape.

In response to CCI’s Climate Impacts Assessment, Climate Change Gap Analysis, and in partnership with the managers, scientists and stakeholders involved in the Crown Adaptation Partnership, CCI identified the following priority areas that shape our current climate-smart conservation strategy:

Saving Cold-Adapted Native Salmonid Populations

The Crown of the Continent Ecosystem (CCE) is a stronghold for native bull trout and westslope cutthroat trout, but these species face significant challenges due to warming stream temperatures that will both reduce suitable habitat and potentially favor non-native species that hybridize and compete with native salmonids. A November 2014 workshop identified nine priority climate adaptation strategies and potential pilot projects for supporting these fish populations across the CCE, including securing likely climate refugia, re-establishing westslope cutthroat trout populations east of the Continental Divide to enhance population resilience, and developing collaborative approaches to identify conservation populations and to address non-native species management. CCI member groups, with support from the Calgary Foundation, have now piloted several climate adaptation projects in partnership with private landowners in Rock Creek, a priority watershed in the Oldman Watershed.

Restoring Five-Needle Pine Species

Whitebark and limber pine forests anchor high-elevation mountain ecosystems in the Crown, securing the snowpack and providing food to numerous species. These five-needle pine species have declined significantly due to an invasive pathogen and pine beetle epidemics, and climate change threatens to exacerbate these stresses and speed the decline. CCI has partnered with American Forests and the Crown Adaptation Partnership to assist the launch of the Crown of the Continent High-Five Working Group, which is focused on identifying and restoring high-priority populations, addressing industrial impacts like logging and mining that may kill or injure these pines, and developing shared messaging to alert the public to the urgent need for restoring these keystone species.

Supporting Robust Transboundary Carnivore Populations

Small-sized carnivores such as lynx, wolverine, and fisher are highly vulnerable to climate change. CCI member groups are focused on projects across the Crown that will enable these wildlife species to move across the landscape, including by addressing wildlife crossing issues on Highway 2 in Montana through Glacier National Park and the Flathead National Forest, Highway 3 in Alberta and British Columbia, and elsewhere.

Increasing Prescribed Fire

Climate change is already contributing to longer fire seasons and larger and more severe wildfires. Managers across the CCE agree on the need to reintroduce fire in forests that have missed fire cycles as a result of past fire suppression, but recognize significant challenges in doing so. A future workshop will focus on identifying strategies to increase the amount of prescribed fire on the landscape, to avoid future catastrophic fires.