Preparing parks for change – Newguidance to aid planning for a changing climate

WASHINGTON — The National Park Service (NPS) has published a guide to help park managers address the effects of climate change in plans and decisions that best preserve and protect park resources and landscapes for their enjoyment today and for future generations. Planning for a Changing Climate helps managers consider possible risks and impacts associated with climate change to make informed decisions to better protect parks in the future.

“From Alaska to the Caribbean, warming temperatures affect all of the parks in our national park system,” said Shawn Benge, Deputy Director of the NPS. “Some parks are already adapting to novel conditions such as rising sea levels, storm surge, extreme fire events and drought. This guide shares some of those stories, and provides a framework for how parks can plan for change. Plans and decisions that account for the effects of climate change will support wise infrastructure investments and help park managers better protect park resources.”  

Planning for a Changing Climate promotes two key ideas for future park planning: adoption of forward-looking goals that consider future climatic conditions, and development of strategies that can succeed under a variety of future environmental conditions. 

The new guide is the latest product from a collaboration with the National Wildlife Federation (NWF). “A rapidly changing climate threatens to undermine decades of conservation work in our national parks,” said Dr. Bruce Stein, the NWF chief scientist and a coauthor of the guide. “Adopting climate-smart conservation measures will be key to safeguarding wildlife and other park resources in a warming and increasingly uncertain future.”

Cat Hawkins Hoffman leads the National Park Service Climate Change Response Program and is a coauthor. “Over the past decade,” she said, “we’ve learned a lot from parks that piloted and tested key concepts which helped inform the guidance we offer in Planning for a Changing Climate.”

As examples, Hawkins Hoffman cited Acadia National Park’s use of projected climate impacts to guide the rehabilitation of the park’s historic carriage roads and Denali National Park’s use of climate scenarios to inform development of their winter recreation plan. “Big Bend National Park is investing in water infrastructure based on local climate projections,” she said. “Each of these experiences give us valuable insight into how to better integrate climate change considerations into park planning.”

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