WASHINGTON — Interior Secretary Ken Salazar moved Monday to prepare the nation's parks, refuges and endangered species for the onslaught of global warming.
Salazar signed an order setting up a Climate Change Response Council and eight regional response centers to study and respond to such issues as rising sea levels threatening to swamp historic structures and warmer temperatures shifting where wildlife live.
The order also commits the Interior Department to develop a plan to reduce its own greenhouse gas emissions, including setting a firm target.
"The realities of climate change require us to change how we manage...the resources we oversee," the order reads.
Earlier this year, Salazar directed the Interior Department, which manages one-fifth of the nation's landmass, to jumpstart renewable energy development. Monday's action builds on that effort by launching a project to develop ways to store carbon dioxide, the most prevalent greenhouse gas, on park, refuge, and tribal lands.
Carbon dioxide could be stored by pumping it underground, or by conserving or growing more trees and grasses to absorb it.
Environmentalists lauded the action Monday, saying that it sent a signal that climate change was a a top priority.
"Secretary Salazar deserves praise for recognizing that climate change waits for no one, and that the impacts of global warming on our public land and water resources could be very widespread and very serious," said Bill Meadows, president of The Wilderness Society.