Climates-a-Changing

This past August, Elizabeth Shogren of The Atlantic penned an exceptional article titled: How the National Park Service is Planning for Climate Change.

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Her words dialed into focus some of the challenges our National Park Service faces while executing their paradoxical roles of guardian and steward.

According to the Organic Act [16 US Code Section 1]. The National Park Service is chartered:

…to promote and regulate the use of the…national parks…which purpose is to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.

Can we leave “vignettes of primitive America” to their own devices and still “preserve them for the enjoyment of future generations?”

As many of our fellow Americans continue to dither, the National Park Service is making plans to mitigate the inevitable effects of a changing climate.

Confused as to why something as fundamentally conservative as conservationism has turned into a political football, folks wearing the iconic “Smokey Bear” are opting out of nonsense and just getting to work.

Anyone who’s ever hunted Montana’s Elk or West Virginia’s White Tail can tell you, “the season” is getting warmer and shorter it seems like every year.

But those same hunters and outdoorsmen…are losing sleep over what drastic action to address climate change might mean for their day-to-day livelihoods. DAMN GOOD Americans who deserve better than half-answers that leave the coal miner of all people “out in the cold.” If I’m a miner in West Virginia, I’m angry to see deer season shrink but, more worried I won’t be able to provide food and shelter for my family.

My friends and family who call Appalachia home are appropriately concerned about vanishing jobs as coal is transitioned from burning lights to Brita water filters. But, they’re also insulted by our assuming mining coal is the only way they know how to make a living. Far from the hapless hillbillies our news outlets seize upon, Appalachia’s reserve of individual talent has always outstripped its reserves of coal. When new, more sustainable forms of energy production come to fruition, it will be calloused and capable Appalachian hands turning the lights on once again.

So with his boots cinched, and the concerns of those whose lives depend on a carbon-based economy in mind, National Park Service director Jonathan Jarvis took up as his charge to leave [our National Parks] unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.

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With his small Climate Change Response Program, Jarvis is revisiting outdated analysis and putting in motion initiatives to save species and landscapes. Specifically, they’re working to foster communication. Providing guidance, scientific information, and recommendations that support stewardship. Preserving our natural and cultural heritage from the detrimental impacts of global climate change.

Jarvis and his team are doing all this…on a shoestring.

Diminutive budgets and political infighting would be laughable, if not so tragic in the face of Glacier National Park’s receding ice-line. Would be easy to joke about political ineptitude if the result wasn’t the dwindling of Yosemite’s Lyell Glacier by more than three quarters. Easy to take another jab at someone with whom we disagree politically if the end result wasn’t uncontrollable wildfire and mountains missing their snow caps. And the extinctions. Many entirely preventable extinctions.

Shogren’s article does nicely to outline some of the Park Service’s larger efforts to address park-specific climate impacts. But we’ll be the first to admit; you’re left with the sinking feeling that somehow, we might be too late. We’re not doing enough.

Will our daughters see and remember Glacier National Park before the Glaciers are gone? Will yours? Will theirs?

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To be honest, we’re not sure…

But if you care… If you’re more than just “talk about it”…Here’s five things you can do to help:

  1. Attend your local city or county council meetings and talk about municipal and state park efforts to address the impacts of climate change. 
  2. Write your local federal representatives. Insist a reasonable share of our tax dollars be spent on climate change research and National Park stewardship.
  3. Teach your children the importance of taking no more than they need, and leaving only footprints.
  4. Write your local Park Superintendent. Thank them for their efforts to address the impacts of climate change in their respective park.
  5. Take your children to see our National Parks…Before they’re gone.

Let us know what you’re doing to help! We’ll join your cause.

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