Press Release Dec 17, 2019

New Legislation Combats Climate Change Impacts on National Park Lands and Waters

This is the first of many measures that must be taken to safeguard the health of our people and our public lands and waters.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raul Grijalva and several members of the committee today introduced the American Public Lands and Waters Climate Solution Act of 2019, a major step in combatting the effects of climate change on our nation’s public lands and waters. From melting glaciers at Mount Rainier to damaging flooding in Fort Sumter after the 2017 hurricanes to disastrous wildfires at Great Smoky Mountains, our national parks are at the forefront of the climate crisis in our country. These places offer a view of climate change’s devastating impact on our land as 80 percent of our more than 400 national parks are currently experiencing changes in climate through extreme trends in temperature, precipitation, or early onset of the spring season.

Coal, oil and gas produced on federal lands account for approximately 25 percent of the total fossil fuels produced annually in the United States. And on average, emissions from combustion and extraction of these fossil fuels account for nearly 24 percent of national carbon dioxide emissions, compounding the effects of climate change across the globe, threatening the health of people, parks and our planet.

The American Public Lands and Waters Climate Solution Act of 2019 provides much needed guidance for how our public lands can absorb more carbon than is produced on them, including:

  • Providing science-based guidance to land management agencies like the National Park Service to reduce emissions, consider increased renewable energy opportunities, and increase carbon storage in places like the Everglades National Park’s mangroves and the grasslands of Badlands National Park;
  • Reigning in oil and gas production by putting emissions targets as a priority, above leasing;
  • Creating a long-term strategic plan to keep emissions goals on track and specifically consider impacts to the National Park System;
  • Updating leasing costs to ensure industry is paying a fair share to develop fossil fuels on public lands that belong to all of us.

Statement by Theresa Pierno, President and CEO for National Parks Conservation Association:

“There’s no bigger threat to the future of our national parks than climate change. It is already destroying what these treasured places were created to preserve – our nature, history and culture. Temperatures in national parks are warming twice as fast as the rest of the country, threatening the very existence of namesake features at Glacier, Joshua Tree and Saguaro National Parks. Cape Hatteras National Seashore is eroding into the sea from rising tides, and Rocky Mountain National Park is experiencing record wildfires, scaring the landscape and devastating nearby communities and local economies. We can’t continue to watch our people and parks suffer without taking significant action. We need solutions to tackle the climate crisis now.

“Our national parks are the canary in the climate change coal mine. While these places offer an early view of climate change’s devastating impact on our land, they can also serve as an opportunity to combat the climate crisis by hosting climate-smart infrastructure like Gateway National Recreation Area used to rebuild after Hurricane Sandy, and absorbing harmful air pollution with resilient landscapes in places like Denali and Sequoia National Parks.

“Fortunately, a group of U.S. Representatives are taking on this challenge by utilizing the power our public lands have to fight back against climate change, making them stronger and more resilient. We commend Chairman Grijalva and many members of the committee for taking this important step to address the greatest threat our public lands have ever faced.

“While this is the first of many measures that must be taken to safeguard the health of our people and our public lands and waters, NPCA remains steadfast in our resolve to protect these landscapes and our legacy for generations to come. And we challenge the rest of Congress to join us with the same resolve and intention.”

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About National Parks Conservation Association: Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than 1.3 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s most iconic and inspirational places for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.