Statement by Mark Wenzler, Senior Vice President of Conservation Programs for the National Parks Conservation Association
“The very existence of our national parks is a testament to what America can do when we rise to meet a challenge – preserving our most precious natural and historic places. To meet this new challenge, we need to make better energy choices. We need to clean up park-polluting coal-fired power plants. And we need to address dwindling wildlife habitat, drought, intense fires and other issues in our precious national parks, so they are resilient to the challenges of a new era. We owe it to the future generations that will inherit our unique national legacy.
“Americans love our national parks, in part because we expect them to be oases of refuge, timeless and set apart from a changing world. Yet climate change doesn’t respect those boundaries, as hundreds of thousands of Americans will see this weekend when they visit a national park for Independence Day.
“Rising temperatures in Yellowstone are killing the whitebark pine trees that America’s great grizzlies need to survive. The glaciers are melting at Glacier National Park. And the same smokestacks driving climate change are also emitting other dangerous pollution that creates smog and haze, reducing visibility and damaging public health.
“The report underscores that it is no longer ecologically viable to manage resources solely within park boundaries. Parks are connected to their surrounding lands, waters, and communities. Investments made in making parks more resilient to climate change will have significant benefits for surrounding communities in terms of air and water quality, healthy wildlife populations, and protection from fire, drought and floods.”
Background: The National Park Service released a new study, Climate Exposure of US National Parks in a New Era of Change (click here to view). The report states: “Parks are overwhelmingly at the extreme warm end of historical temperature distributions…Climate change further challenges us to develop new, ecologically viable desired conditions to guide the preservation of park resources in this new era of change.”
Climate change is having a significant impact on national parks, and will continue to cause substantial changes. Some examples include:
- Within this century, glaciers will disappear from Glacier National Park, and Joshua trees will disappear from Joshua Tree National Park.
- Coral reefs are dying in Biscayne and Virgin Islands national parks due to increased heat and disease.
- Insect pests are thriving and are devastating forests from Great Smoky Mountains to Yellowstone
- As temperatures rise, species are being driven out of the parks and some plants and animals may have nowhere to go.
- Rising sea levels and more powerful hurricanes threaten dozens of historical parks along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.
- Wildfires and flash floods threaten ancient American Indian dwellings and artifacts in the Southwest.
About National Parks Conservation Association
Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than one million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.
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