Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today highlighted the growing threat of climate change to the National Wildlife Refuge System and the vital habitat it conserves during a visit to the country's first refuge. "When President Theodore Roosevelt established Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge in 1903, he took decisive action to protect a treasured wild place and its wildlife from the scourge of market hunting," Salazar said. "Today, climate change poses an even more serious threat to our refuges and their wildlife. We must take bold action to address it or we will bear the consequences in the loss of treasures that cannot be replaced."Salazar dedicated a new section of the Refuge's Centennial Trail, celebrating the history of the refuge system dating back to the founding of Pelican Island. The refuge system has grown to become the world's preeminent network of protected areas for wildlife. Salazar, who will attend the Copenhagen Climate Summit later this month, noted that 11 of the 12 warmest years on record have occurred in the past 15 years. According to the U.S. Global Change Research Program, spring arrives across the United States 10 days to two weeks earlier than it did 20 years ago, and the ranges of many plants and animals have shifted northward and to higher elevations. Studies of migratory birds have found that birds in the Northeast are returning from their wintering grounds in the South an average of 14 days earlier than they did in the first half of the last century, Salazar said."To preserve our rich natural heritage, we must limit greenhouse gas emissions through national legislation now under consideration in Congress," he said. "Climate change impacts to fish and wildlife and their habitats are occurring now. The overwhelming scientific consensus is that these impacts will worsen due to the greenhouse gases already present in the atmosphere."The Department of the Interior has developed a first-ever coordinated and comprehensive framework for managing the impacts of climate change on America's water supplies, wildlife, and landscapes. The department's plan is grounded in principles of sound science, an adaptive, landscape-scale conservation approach, and collaboration with partners. These same principles form the foundation of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's proposed strategic plan for climate change, which the agency will be finalizing with input from the public and partners in the coming months. The plan focuses on helping fish, wildlife and plants adapt to changing climates. It also outlines ways the agency will reduce its carbon footprint as part of the department's broader Carbon Footprint Project and expand biological efforts to sequester carbon in hardwood forests and other natural carbon sinks as part of the department's Carbon Storage Project."We simply can't wait to take action," Salazar said. "President Obama is committed to moving quickly at the departmental level, at the national level, and at the international level."