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For MO Sportsmen, Climate Changes May Cause Habitat Changes

Changes in climate mean changes in habitat for Missouri's hunters and anglers. (Missouri Chapter, Sierra Club)
Changes in climate mean changes in habitat for Missouri's hunters and anglers. (Missouri Chapter, Sierra Club)
February 23, 2016

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - Extreme swings in weather conditions can lead to major changes in the environment, and as trout season opens next week in Missouri, this year's winter flooding could mean changes for sportsmen.

University of Missouri cooperative associate professor Craig Paukert says the major issues are these extreme weather events becoming more common, and how fish and wildlife adapt to them.

"Particularly within the state of Missouri, where fish and wildlife populations are fairly resilient, slight changes in water temperature can affect fish populations," he says. "Fish, and for that matter wildlife, key in on certain migratory patterns, so any changes in those patterns can really affect how, say, a fish may choose to migrate."

Census data shows nearly half of all Missourians, 45 percent, say they're among the hunters and anglers who help create 110,000 jobs for the state's economy, and pay fees that can be used to protect wildlife and habitat.

Jeff Witten represents Missouri's 2,000 Trout Unlimited members on the group's National Leadership Council. He says climate change could drastically affect the state's streams and rivers, and destroy the fishing environment.

"As the climate changes, many people think that just means the water is going to get warmer, and while that's true, it could also get ravaged by floods, by drought, by trees blowing into the streams," says Witten. "As the weather gets more erratic, it can damage those streams."

Witten says people can take a variety of steps to help curb the changing climate, with steps as simple as using LED lights instead of incandescent bulbs, using more fuel-efficient vehicles, keeping thermostats lower in the winter and higher in the summer, and getting involved with local conservation organizations.

Paukert says by the fees they pay for licenses, Missourians also can help preserve and protect the fish and wildlife population.

"Continuing to be engaged in the outdoors and buying your fishing license, hunting license; or just simply going out and buying some bird seed and watching some songbirds, you know, in your back yard," Paukert says. "All that helps, all small parts to conservation."

The Missouri Sierra Club chapter also backs the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan, saying less industrial pollution would help mitigate climate change.

The federal plan is on hold pending a court challenge, but some states are moving forward with their own rules to limit carbon pollution.

Jeff Stein, Public News Service - MO