100s of National Park Sites Threatened by Climate Change

October 14, 2009

US National Park units offer no refuge from climate change, according to a report released Oct. 1, 2009, by the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization (which is led by former national and state natural resources officials) and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The two advocacy groups say problems caused by climate change have already been occurring for some time, and they identify the 25 park units they consider most threatened. But the vulnerability principles identified in the report spill over to hundreds of additional national park units and other types of natural areas that may be of interest to your audience. People may be more aware of national parks following the September 2009 PBS broadcast of "National Parks: America's Best Idea," a 12-hour series by Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan: TipSheet of Sep. 16, 2009.

The two groups that authored the "National Parks in Peril" report say that the major threat categories include changes in precipitation, ice and snow regimes, ocean levels, extreme weather, and pollution that can contribute to altered vegetation, animals, cultural resources, historical resources, and visitor enjoyment. In addition to identifying threatened parks, the groups spell out dozens of recommendations on ways to mitigate problems.

The 25 most vulnerable park units span the country from north to south and east to west, in a variety of settings. Examples include Acadia National Park, Colonial National Historical Park, Denali National Park and Preserve, Everglades National Park, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Padre Island National Seashore, Saguaro National Park, and Yellowstone National Park.

To find out more about these sites, and the other 366 units of the national parks system, including monuments, seashores, recreation areas, wild and scenic rivers, historic trails, and historic sites, go to:

In addition to this recent report, there are scores of other science and policy resources that address climate change. You can access many of them on SEJ's Web site:

There are numerous ways to cover this kind of story, ranging from specifics involved with individual park and natural resource facilities, to features on one or more of the threat elements, to broad-brush conceptual pieces about multiple threats affecting multiple settings. Just a few recent examples, taken from just one publication, High Country News, include: