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Climate Change Impacts to National Parks: Responding to the Challenge. David Reynolds Natural Resources and Science Northeast Region. National Park Service. Mount Rainier NP. Long range effects of climate disruption…. infrastructure,. on park resources,. Kaloko-honoko Hau NHP.

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Climate Change Impacts to National Parks: Responding to the Challenge

David Reynolds

Natural Resources and Science

Northeast Region

National Park Service

long range effects of climate disruption

Mount Rainier NP

Long range effects of climate disruption…


on park resources,

Kaloko-honoko Hau NHP

Glacier NP

& visitor experience

…are just beginning to be understood.

to what we can do about it
…to what we can do about it

The focus of the discussion has shifted

from the evidence…

from Science……to Management

As stewards of our Nation’s natural and cultural heritage we have an obligation to act

charting a course for action
Charting a Course for Action

NPS is undertaking a coordinated strategy that involves parks, regions, and national programs

Recent actions include:

  • Hired full-time Climate Change Coordinator – Sep 07- Leigh Welling
  • Formed 6 ad-hoc working groups (Legal & Policy; Planning; Science; Resource Stewardship; GHG Emission & Sustainable Operations; and Communication)
  • Organized & attended numerous regional and interagency workshops
  • Expanded Sustainable Operations Branch to include climate change
  • Rolled out Mitigation Plan in Pacific West Region – includes target of carbon neutrality for all parks by 2016
  • Alaska Region has led development of a Communications Strategy
  • Formed Climate Change Response Steering Committee – Jan 09

While efforts to date are significant – the NPS is not yet positioned to assess the affects of climate change and prescribe management actions that are suitable for parks.


NPS Needs a Core Capacity in Three Cross-cutting Components

2. Adaptation

1. Mitigation

3. Communication

definitions mitigation vs adaptation
Definitions: Mitigation vs Adaptation

Mitigation = removing the cause of a problem. For CC, any action that reduces the concentration of GHGs in the atmosphere

Adaptation = an adjustment or coping strategy. For CC, actions that allow organisms or humans systems to endure or survive

1 mitigation leadership by example
1. Mitigation: Leadership by Example

NPS has ongoing efforts at parks to reduce GHG emissions and develop sustainable operations

Climate Friendly Parks w/EPA

  • Emissions Inventories – Climate Leadership in Parks (CLIP) tool
  • Energy Conservation – transportation, waste management, and building efficiencies
  • Renewables – some parks are generating and using clean energy such as photovolatic and geothermal heat exchange
1 mitigation leadership by example1
1. Mitigation: Leadership by Example

Action for the Future  Examples from the Pacific West Region

  • Support the goals of EO 13423: Strengthening Federal Environmental, Energy, and Transportation Management

 set 2016 target of carbon neutrality for park operations

  • Energy SmartPARKS! w/DOE  transportation, renewables, and other energy efficient projects
  • Environmental Management Systems  operationalizing sustainable practices
2 adaptation arrange for change
2. Adaptation: Arrange for Change

As climate change causes shifts in weather, water availability, fire, invasive species, and other environmental conditions…

park vegetation

and wildlife

…will need to adapt to these new regimes.

2 adaptation arrange for change1
2. Adaptation: Arrange for Change

Ecosystem resilience is a cornerstone for resource adaptation under climate change

  • Reduce Current Stressors  (e.g. invasives; pollutions)
  • Evaluate which species and processes are most at risk
  • Enhance existing Vital Signs and climate monitoring at parks
  • Employ Adaptive Management

Promote buffer zones and “species highways” for migration

2 adaptation arrange for change2
2. Adaptation: Arrange for Change

Additionally, park infrastructure may need to be adapted to better perform or maintain functionality.

2 adaptation arrange for change3
2. Adaptation: Arrange for Change

Planning & Implementation parks are requesting support to incorporate climate change into all park planning efforts

3 communication inspiring resource stewardship
3. Communication: Inspiring Resource Stewardship

The NPS is ideally positioned to raise awareness on climate change and communicate solutions being implemented across the Service and Department

Some current examples:

Climate Change in National Parks - Monthly Webinar Series to link park employees with climate change scientists –

Talking Points w/FWS

An on-line program that helps people reduce their carbon footprint

3 communication inspiring resource stewardship1
3. Communication: Inspiring Resource Stewardship

Communication Strategy  use the communication power of the NPS to engage park staff, partners, and the public in finding solutions

  • Create new interpretive programs and products
  • Highlight current sustainability efforts
  • Provide Training for staff
  • Develop public facing website
  • Deliver education and outreach products and services

NPS Climate Change Response

Next steps for the Northeast Region:

  • Create a Northeast RegionClimate Change Response Steering Committee that includes all disciplines in FY 09
  • Complete long-range Regional strategy and action plan in FY ‘09
  • Work with federal, state and non-governmental partners to establish a program and budget for staff and field based projects to support Mitigation, Adaptation, and Communication efforts

An example of a cooperative project is to work with USFWS, VA, MD U.S.COE, to incorporate Scenario Planning into the General Management Plan process at Assateague Island National Seashore


What are Scenarios?

  • Scenarios Are:
  • A tool for long-term strategic planning
  • Compelling narratives of alternative environments in which decisions may be played out
  • Coherent, internally consistent, and plausible
  • Scenarios Are Not:
  • Predictions or Forecasts
  • A method for arriving at the “most likely” future
scenario planning an integration of science and management
Scenario Planning: An Integration of Science and Management

Types of Scenarios  different purposes


Internal Dynamics

Identify the Context or Focal Question

Build & Test Scenarios

Policy Screening

List External Drivers

Decision makers, scientists, topical experts

Decision makers

Scientists, topical experts

  • Strategic  testing concepts and models
  • Exploratory moving into the future, e.g., by extending past trends, considering contingencies
  • Anticipatory  aiming toward preferred futures – and avoiding ‘nightmares’

Slide adapted from Holly Hartmann, University of Arizona