Deer me, who knew I would miss hemlocks so much?

NWF recently released a report on how climate is already impacting wildlife, detailing everything from dropping numbers of moose in New England to bears not hibernating much (if at all) in the winter.

And that’s not all – in the forest, an immediate concern  is the potential for hemlock woody adelgid to have a major range expansion, and possibly wipe out eastern hemlock altogether.

These insects are native to Japan and feed on and kill eastern hemlock trees. The bug’s range is constrained to places where minimum temperatures remain above -20 degrees Fahrenheit… which now includes where I grew up, in North Carolina, and soon could include the forests in the entire Northeast. Climate model projections indicate that temperature increases could place the entire range of this tree above this temperature threshold, leading to range-wide declines and possible loss of the tree species altogether.

Why do we care? “I am more of a wildlife gal/guy than a tree one”, you say?
Eastern Hemlock is the most significant whitetail deer wintering cover in southern and central NH and parts of Maine and much of Massachusetts. Hemlock is used both as cover and forage during deep snow or cold temperatures. Loss of hemlock from the bugs could significantly drop the number of deer who make it through the winter, especially as we have more extreme winter storms that dump larger amounts of snow.

“But we need to worry about the economy, what about the economy?” Good question.  Deer drive hunting license numbers, important revenue in most states.  A significant reduction in deer numbers drives license sales and hunters getting out and spending money down correspondingly. Hunting and fishing license sales provide the bulk of state fish and wildlife funding in many states, which protects our wildlife and our pristine places.

A few fun facts from the Congressional Sportsmen’s foundation:

  • The $12 billion anglers spent on boats and other special equipment in 2011 is more than the global revenues for Starbucks that year .
  • Hunters spent $6 billion on guns, ammunition and archery equipment in 2011. That’s the same as the sales of bicycles in the United States.
  • And hipsters beware: Sportsmen spend $90 billion annually – that’s more than the combined 2011 global revenues for Apple’s iPhone and iPad.

“I am convinced! What can we do about?” I am so glad you asked. We have a plan!

1. Reject tar sands in the US (including a pipeline here in New England)

2. Cut climate pollution from coal fired power plants

and last but not least,

3. Get the word out:  talk to your friends and neighbors, post this on your facebook page, and share it on twitter.