National Parks and Global Warming

The national parks that can be found in the western part of the United States are some of the most valuable natural spaces in the country. Boasting the likes of famous national parks such as Yosemite and Yellowstone, the American West offers several examples of the American love of nature. These majestic places and others like it are pristine and beautiful destinations, but many wonder if their future may be in jeopardy.

Twelve of the U.S. national parks are in serious danger of being negatively impacted by the accelerating effects of the greenhouse effect and global warming, according to a recent report from the National Resources Defense council (NRDC), along with The Rocky Mountain Climate Organization.

The report demonstrates how global warming is destroying wildlife habitats in the American West, where temperatures have increased at nearly double the speed of the eastern United States over the course of the past 50 years. Because of this, certain species are at risk of extinction, and the landscapes could potentially be transformed to something other than the classic landscapes that Americans know and love.

Should the current trends persist, the report indicates that all of Glacier National Park’s glaciers could be melted by the year 2030, in addition to several of the ice caves and glaciers found in the North Cascades National Park. Within just a few years, the snow-covered peaks of many parks could be lacking snow altogether throughout the summer. Mountain meadows, forests and wildflowers may be drastically reduced, while instances of droughts, floods, erosions and wildfires may likely increase. The reports also illustrate the fragile and intricate connections that comprise natural ecosystems, and how a devastating chain reaction of events can occur within one area of a national park. For instance, the extreme cold weather in the mountains usually serves to regulate the activities of bark beetles. With the onset of global warming, the cold is lessened, so the bark beetles are increasing unnaturally in numbers and infesting Whitebark Pines, a high-altitude tree species that were previously inaccessible to bark beetles, and because of this development the trees are now in danger of extinction. This potential loss does not only affect humans that enjoy their beauty (and the oxygen that they produce), but also grizzly bears, who depend on Whitebarks as a food source. This will likely drive the bears into other areas in search of food, creating an additional long-term risk to their survival. According to the report, the top 12 U.S. national parks in danger are: • Bandelier National Monument, New Mexico
• Death Valley National Park, California
• Glacier National Park, Montana
• Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah and Arizona
• Golden Gate National Recreation Area, California
• Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
• Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
• Mount Rainier National Park, Washington state
• North Cascades National Park, Washington state
• Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
• Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho
• Yosemite National Park, California.

The environmentalists recommend several other actions that people and agencies should take to minimize the risk of global warming, including encouraging the National Park Service to more diligently identify and maintain park resources that are prone to suffer the consequences of global warming.