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Land Trust hosts Eric Orff on ‘Global Warming: The Forecast for Wildlife’

Friday, December 6, 2013

By ELIZABETH EVARTS

Special to the Journal

The Bedford Land Trust held a successful annual meeting in October at the Bedford Public Library, drawing a crowd of people interested in both the Land Trust and its guest speaker, certified wildlife biologist, Eric Orff.

Orff’s presentation, “Global Warming: The Forecast for Wildlife,” focused on climate change impacts on New Hampshire’s fish and wildlife.

Orff, currently a consultant with the National Wildlife Federation and a former wildlife biologist with New Hampshire Fish and Game, talked about noticeable climate changes in the state as he conducted his work throughout the ’80s, ’90s and more dramatically within the past decade.

Growing up in Londonderry, he found his connection with nature by making duck boxes.

Over many years, from making and installing duck boxes to owning and operating a wildlife control business to conducting waterfowl surveys for the state, Orff would repeatedly find that he could no longer easily cross various marshes or other water body types to gather his data or complete his work.

He found that many of the state’s water bodies simply did not have the same ice coverage from years prior. He felt that he was literally watching New Hampshire’s winters disappear.

As a bear biologist for Fish and Game and a fur bearer biologist, Orff is no stranger to wildlife or its habitat. During his presentation, he provided example after example of the impacts of dramatic weather changes to the environment, specifically in New Hampshire.

Mid-winter aerial waterfowl surveys conducted by him in 2007 showed no ice from Great Bay to the Isle of Shoals, a vastly different landscape from previous years where ice was seen all over.

Orff spoke about record increases in New Hampshire’s water temperatures, which have continued to climb on average since 1970, and are directly affecting native brook trout, a species of concern.

Native brook trout are impaired in water warmer than 70 degrees and perish in water warmer than 75 degrees. The native brook trout range has continued to decline over the last five to six decades due to the warming of our state’s waters.

Additional fish impacts include the Atlantic salmon, grey triggerfish, river herring and the shrimp population, which normally thrives in the Gulf of Maine and are heavily impacted by unseasonably warmer water temperatures.

Orff’s greatest platform, however, is the moose population in our state. Due to his experience radio tagging moose, he became the on-call expert to help troubled moose and other animals throughout the state.

The warming trend of the waters also extends to the warming trend of our atmosphere, which is having a direct effect on our moose population.

Orff relayed to the audience that moose experience heat stress with temperatures above 63 degrees, they begin to pant with temperatures above 68 degrees, and they bed down and stop eating altogether with temperatures higher than 79 degrees.

Not to mention the increase in the tick population, which wreaks havoc on moose, weakening them to the point of death due to the loss of blood.

Orff expressed that moose seek thermal refuges in wetlands and thick forests to help them cope physically when temperatures reach more than 68 degrees. He could not stress enough the importance to continue to set aside habitat for animals like the moose.

Land conservation is important to ensure their survival. Efforts of organizations like the Bedford Land Trust and its supporters help wildlife survive and aid in reducing global warming pollution.

Thus, when asked the question of what can we do, in addition to continued land conservation, Orff suggested that we continue to encourage our government, its administration and its leaders to facilitate efforts that reduce/eliminate carbon emissions and continue to pass legislation that supports the environment.

Individuals can reduce home consumption of energy through better insulation, installation of efficient windows and doors, the use of fluorescent light bulbs, purchase energy-efficient appliances, and perhaps install a good old-fashioned clothesline to dry your clothes. Do your part today!

Contact the Bedford Land Trust or visit our website at www.bedfordlandtrust.org.

Elizabeth Evarts is a Bedford Land Trust trustee.

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