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Climate Change Bill Up in DC - Colorado Wildlife in the Crosshairs

June 25, 2009

Denver - A landmark climate change bill could be set for a vote in the House of Representatives as soon as Friday, and Colorado sportsmen and wildlife experts say it's about more than just cleaner energy.

Forrest Orswell is the state representative for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, as well as an avid hunter and Colorado native. He's hoping Congress passes the American Clean Energy and Security Act because he's already seeing the effects of climate change on his annual elk hunt in Northwest Colorado.

"We didn't see a single elk there because the migration has changed. This may not be permanent, but it's changing."

Many scientists say there's a connection between changing migratory patterns and changes in snowfall and snowmelt. Orswell agrees, saying sportsmen and anglers of all political stripes are eager to see something done about the changing climate.

"We want to sustain our hunting and fishing traditions for our children and on from there."

The proposed bill in Congress isn't perfect, admits Orswell, but it would begin to combat climate change by implementing a cap-and-trade system on greenhouse gas emitters.

Harvey Nyberg, a retired wildlife biologist in Denver, says Colorado fishermen also have a stake in the issue.

"Anglers are going to find that the opportunity to fish for native cutthroat trout in Colorado is going to diminish as a result of climate change."

A portion of the funds raised from the legislation's proposed cap-and-trade system would fund programs on the state and local levels to help wildlife adapt to the changing climate, adds Nyberg, which is something he believes is critical to the survival of many species.

Opponents of the bill say it would be expensive and would mean higher energy costs. Supporters counter that those costs can be offset, and that society would pay far higher costs down the road if action isn't taken to halt climate change now.

The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (H.R. 2454) is also known as the Waxman-Markey bill.

Eric Mack, Public News Service - CO