Abstract Climate change is exerting significant pressure on ecosystems. Without management strategies that impede harmful invasions and help vulnerable resources adapt, biodiversity and ecological function will likely decline. However, governing processes are too often insufficiently adaptive, and many resource laws are not designed primarily to facilitate biodiversity or promote ecological health. Many laws are primarily directed at promoting consumptive use; others on promoting historical fidelity; still others on limiting human management. Global climate change causes these various conservation goals to be increasingly at odds with each other and with promoting biodiversity. Except in rare circumstances when decline in ecological health is deemed an acceptable trade-off for historical fidelity, non-intervention, and/or human consumption or development, natural resources laws must be better adapted to accommodate change not only through adaptive management measures that integrate flexibility into regulatory processes, but also by promoting substantive goals that emphasize ecological health.