by Rick Zamore, SCA Program Manager
"Our national parks… stand as some of the last vestiges where ecological components function naturally. To succeed in its mission in the face of climate change, the DOI and NPS must lead by example in minimizing our carbon footprint and promoting sustainable operational practices. We must take responsibility for understanding how climate change will impact the national parks and take appropriate steps to protect these national treasures. Climate change is potentially the most far-reaching and consequential challenge to our mission … in the entire history of the NPS." Statement of Jon Jarvis, [NPS Director-Designate] Regional Director, NPS Pacific West Region, before the House Committee on Natural Resources, Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, April 7, 2009
Our national parks are vulnerable to climate change, whether it takes the form of glaciers melting in North Cascades, rising seas threatening the Everglades, drought causing increasingly severe fires in the California Sierras, or any of myriad other results of global warming’s effect on the earth’s weather and biodiversity.
Though threatened, the parks are also ideal locations in which to inform the public about greenhouse gas reduction – both by setting an example in conserving energy and producing fewer greenhouse gases, and by educating the visitors about steps individuals can take to reduce their carbon footprints at home and in their communities.
The NPS Climate Friendly Parks Program (CFP) combines the parks’ vulnerabilities to global warming with their capacities to inspire public imagination and ‘teachable moments’ into a program designed to mitigate the effects of climate change within park borders and in surrounding communities. Launched with technical and financial support from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) the program now includes more than 50 parks across the country, making this a program of national scope.
You can visit the Climate Friendly Parks website for information on how each participating park is responding to the challenge of global warming.
The goals of the CFP Program are:
Parks use two scientific tools to inventory and analyze their energy consumption, volume of waste and emissions (i.e. their overall carbon footprint) and to develop an Action Plan to mitigate them. The tools were designed by the EPA and a consultant, ICF, and are known as the CLIP (Climate Leadership In Parks) Inventory Module and the CLIP Action Planning Module. They allow for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to be calculated accurately and consistently across a range of sites, and across a range of facilities and divisions (Administration, Maintenance, etc.) within each site. They also let sites compare different strategies for GHG reduction before committing resources to a site-specific Action Plan.
We have to get our own house clean and green before we take our message to the public. --NPS Pacific West Region Environmental Programs Coordinator, Sonya Capek
The Pacific West Region of the Park Service has taken things a little further in adopting the Climate Friendly Park Program to its sites -- a total of 56 units in California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Idaho, Hawaii, Guam, Saipan and American Samoa. Under the leadership of Regional Director (and NPS Director-designate) Jon Jarvis, the Pacific West is mandating the goal of carbon neutrality for all units and facilities, as well as making greenhouse gas mitigation and adaptation to global warming part of site Master Plans throughout the region.
Attaining carbon-neutral operations is an ambitious goal, especially since it includes the operations of park partners and concessions in the baseline calculation of each site’s current carbon footprint. It takes a lot of work to assess a site’s waste stream, levels of emissions and energy use, but that inventory is critical in deciding how to mitigate, reduce or eliminate those contributors to global warming. Even after making a commitment to the CFP Program, parks of all sizes may have difficulties sparing the personnel necessary to complete inventories and develop action plans.
The NPS Pacific West Region has brought additional resources to this work by assigning SCA Climate Change Interns to work with sites in the region’s park networks to help with the energy use and greenhouse gas inventories. In the words of Matt Rose, Environmental Specialist at the Pacific West Regional Office in Seattle:
“Without these SCA Climate Change interns it would be very difficult to get the inventorying done, particularly at the small parks. The work would all have to be done by Park Service staff when they could be spared from other projects."
There are six Climate Change interns serving for 12 months at five sites in the Pacific West -- Golden Gate, Lake Mead, Crater Lake, Haleakala and Mount Rainier. By using their skills, the Region can bring the Climate Friendly Parks Program to all of its 54 units, including the smallest. Rose further explained:
"What we're doing here in the Pacific West Region is a test case -- using interns to lead the inventories at smaller sites in the park networks. If it's successful, it may be expanded to other regions of the country. The Climate Change interns are Kelli Driessen, and Kelly Engle (Lake Mead), Sean Cusick (Haleakala), Allsion Cryns (Golden Gate NRA), Katherine Kulbok (Crater Lake) and Justin Ohlschlager (Mount Rainier)."
Justin Ohlschlager is responsible for helping to create inventories at 14 sites in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana as well working with the Mount Rainier Green Team. A native of Eureka CA and Lynchburg VA, Justin was a Geomorphology intern at Mount Rainier in 2008, “studying the aggradation (filling up with sediment) of river beds, caused by glacial retreat.” Describing his work helping to inventory the smaller sites, he says:
“At each site I make a two-day visit and then write up outlines showing where and from whom I obtained data, so that the inventory process can be repeated later on. The rest of my time is spent on data analysis back at Mount Rainier, helping each park with the Action Planning process, and helping the Mount Rainier Green Team monitor facilities and emissions.”
“The hardest part of the job is coordinating the data collection process. The data is out there but it’s in a lot of different places, and it’s difficult to get it into the correct form for the CLIP Tool. But the most rewarding part is the fact that I am directly responsible for helping the National Park Service review and quantify its carbon footprint, with a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. To help the NPS in this process has been a great pleasure!”
Do Your Part for Climate Friendly Parks, showing how you can calculate your carbon footprint, practical steps to make it smaller and lighter, and how to help your favorite park reach its greenhouse-gas-reduction goals. Thanks National Parks Conservation Association for building this tool!
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