Green Travel: Climate Change Threatens National Parks

| 11/24/2009 1:36:40 PM

Family vacations were a major part of my childhood. Almost every summer my parents would pack up the car and take me and my siblings to some famous, historic or natural site. Along the way I saw many national parks, from the famed Yellowstone to the little known El Morro, a popular campsite where early explorers carved their names into the sandstone bluffs.

As I’ve grown up, many structures and icons of my childhood have disappeared, victims of time. National parks, however, were one part of my past that I thought would be around for my children to enjoy. Now I’m not so sure.

Yosemite NP
Yosemite National Park. Photo By Christopher Chan/Courtesy Flickr. 

A new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization shows how climate change is threatening America’s national parks. The report, National Parks in Peril: The Threats of Climate Disruption, identifies 25 national parks that are at the greatest risk. The report lists some of America’s most beloved parks, such as Yosemite, Zion, Joshua Tree, Denali and the Great Smoky Mountains.

A number of climate-based factors will change the face of national parks, including loss of water, wildlife and plant communities, higher seas, air pollution and intolerable heat. Although some changes won’t be complete until the end of the century, some parks are already starting to turn for the worst:

• Rising temperatures in Yellowstone’s Firehole River were hot enough to kill as many as a thousand trout in 2007.