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The federal government owns and manages substantial tracts of grasslands, which provide ecosystem services worth trillions of dollars. These include seed dispersal, mitigation of droughts and floods, nutrient cycling, control of pests and disease-carrying organisms, maintenance of biodiversity and wildlife habitat, soil preservation, climate stabilization, watershed and water body protection, pollination, carbon sequestration, and recreational opportunities. Like most ecosystem types found on federal lands, grasslands ecosystems are vulnerable to ongoing and predicted changes in climate.

The land management agencies that administer federal grasslands face novel management challenges that require development of climate change adaptation strategies, some of which they have begun to implement. In responding to and anticipating climate-related threats, a principal goals of grasslands managers should be to protect the integrity of well-functioning grasslands. The management strategies under consideration should include exclusion of or restrictions on uses likely to exacerbate the threats posed by climate change to healthy grasslands, abandonment of efforts to preserve historic conditions that climate change has irreparably altered, and active management of at least some areas in which non-intervention has to date been the norm.

GW Paper Series

GWU Law School Public Law Research Paper No. 2017-11 ; GWU Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2017-11

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