Air Pollution in California's National Parks

California Clean Air and Climate Program | Air Pollution | Climate Change

Joshua Tree National Park has some of the worst air quality of any park, with record high ozone levels. On clear days visibility is 100 miles but haze pollution can cut views to 17 miles. Air pollution has also favored the growth of exotic grasses, which have altered the park's fire regime and threaten Joshua trees.

From 1999-2003 Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks recorded 370 days with unhealthy air from ozone pollution. Over half of the Jeffrey and ponderosa pine trees are showing some level of ozone damage. 

The fine particulate matter (PM) that causes hazy scenic vistas at Yosemite National Park and others can also collect in the nose, throat, bronchial tubes and lungs of visitors where it may cause respiratory infections.

NPCA’s Pacific Region has many programs that reduce air pollution in the parks:

  • The Central Valley Field office reaches thousands of middle school students annually with information about poor air quality through their Future Stewards for the National Parks program.
  • The Joshua Tree Field Office is working with the National Park Service, teachers and high school students to develop climate change curriculum for the public schools.
  • NPCA’s Pacific Regional staff is working with partners to study public transportation systems to and within several national parks in California. These systems will help reduce park greenhouse gas emissions and provide access to the parks for the public.
  • NPCA is advocating for state legislation that would reduce the effects of climate change and air pollution on California's national parks. California has some of the worst air quality in the nation, but it is also pursuing innovative strategies to fight bad air and climate change.

Read more about the California Clean Air and Climate Program >

Read more about climate change in California's national parks >

Other Resources

Dark Horizons: 10 National Parks Most Threatened by New Coal-Fired Power Plants
May 2008
Americans expect and deserve clean air when they visit our national parks! NPCA's new report highlights the ten national parks most threatened by new coal-fired power plants, and calls on the Administration to abandon its effort to permit more harmful air pollution near national parks.

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