Climate Friendly Parks

NPS teams with EPA to reduce carbon at National Parks

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While surfing the on-line universe the other day, I happened upon the National Parks Service Climate Friendly Parks website–a collaboration between the Parks Service (NPS) and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reduce the green house gases being generated by our National Parks.

In 2002. Karen Scott, Outreach and Education Specialist in charge of EPA’s climate change program, realized that she wasn’t reaching a broad audience. So she teamed up with the National Parks Service to tackle climate change where people (presumably who care) were seeing its effects and would be inspired to action. They created the Climate Friendly Parks initiative.

Climate Friendly Parks helps National Parks do an emissions inventory. It helps each interested park figure how much carbon it’s putting into the environment. Then it helps it understand what climate change will look like within its boundaries, whether it’s a change in flora and fauna, melting glaciers and dried up streams, etc. Then, it helps each park figure out how to reduce its emissions.

Scott and colleagues Julie Thomas McNamee (Air Quality Liaison at NPS) and Shawn Norton (Environmental Leadership Coordinator at NPS) have always worked with a limited budget, and launched their program at a time when there was bickering at the national level as to whether climate change was a legitimate concern. In the first seven years of the program they certified 20 parks.

Then, in 2007, George W. Bush issued an executive order requiring parks to reduce emissions by 3% per year. That inspired the Climate Friendly Parks people to step it up, to help parks grab the “low hanging fruit” and run with the momentum. They ramped up their efforts, maximizing their resources with on-line tools and trainings, and shifted their focus to certifying all the parks in one region before moving onto the next region.

Now, all of the Pacific West parks, which includes parks in Washington, Oregon and Hawaii, should be certified in the next year (about 50). Grand Canyon is slated to come on board this fall, and Yosemite, Mount Rainier, Rocky Mountain and Great Smokies National Parks have been certified. Yellowstone is in process (they did their own inventory outside of this program, and are now redoing it). Olympic, North Cascades and Mt Rainier parks have announced that with the program’s support, they’re shooting to reduce their emissions 40-50 percent by 2015. McNamee says they hope to have all 391 National Parks complete the three step process to become Climate Friendly Parks soon.

After poking around on the Climate Friendly Parks website, it was clear that the site is mostly for the parks benefit. It’s where the tools and trainings and all the supporting materials for this project live.

But there is a way that you can be part of this great program. On the Do Your Part page, Climate Friendly Parks has set up a calculator that you can use to track and reduce your own emissions. Once you’ve made reductions, you can credit them towards your favorite park to help that park towards its goals. Apparently, few people know about this great initiative–as of today, only 458 people have signed up.

Are you willing to reduce your own emissions to help the National Parks? What are you going to do?

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