SWANTON – The Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge, a 6,700-acre stretch of wetland abutting Lake Champlain just north of Swanton, will likely see the impact of climate change as temperatures rise, warmer seasons drag on and rainfall becomes more erratic, predicts the refuge’s manager, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Ken Sturm.
According to Sturm, those changes could take the form of prolonged blue green algal blooms and reshaped marshlands, things that could directly impact the wildlife the refuge was established to help protect.
The Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge was created by 1943 under the authority of the Migratory Bird Conservation Act. Established in a major flyway for migrating waterfowl, the refuge was envisioned as a rest stop for birds making their annual treks north and south.
Sturm estimates that at the peak of the migratory season, somewhere between 10,000 and 25,000 ducks could be passing through the refuge on their way north for the summer or south for the winter.
He also estimated that more than 200 species of birds call the refuge home, including state-designated endangered species like the black tern.
“Each refuge in the system has specific establishment legislative authorities that allow them to go out and acquire land, but for us it was for migratory birds,” Sturm explained. “I always find it interesting that, in preparing for World War II, people found it important enough to protect places like Missisquoi in perpetuity under extreme national emergency circumstances.”
“There’s no question that that is occurring.”
Climate change refers to the gradual warming of Earth’s climate since the second half of the 19th century, a trend observed and heavily documented by scientists.
“I can say climate change is happening, absolutely,” Sturm said. “That’s been proven over and over again – there’s no question that that is occurring.”
To read the full story pick up a copy of this weekend’s Messenger or subscribe to our digital edition.