Global Warming Puts 12 U.S. National Parks on the Endangered List

National Parks in the American West are Losing Ground Report Says

USA, California, Death Valley National Park
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National parks across the American West are among the United States’ most treasured natural spaces. From Yellowstone to Yosemite, U.S. national parks stand as monuments to Americans’ love of nature and our spiritual connection to the land. Our public lands' founders saw in them unparalleled sources of grandeur, beauty and recreation—but for how much longer?

Global Warming Puts National Parks at Risk

Twelve U.S. national parks are at serious risk from the increasing effects of global climate change, according to a report from the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and The Rocky Mountain Climate Organization titled, Losing Ground: Western National Parks Endangered by Climate Disruption.

The report shows how global warming in the arid American West, where temperatures have risen twice as fast as in the eastern United States over the past 50 years, is destroying wildlife habitat, putting species at risk of extinction, and transforming the landscapes and scenic beauty Americans love.

Global Warming Eroding Scenic Beauty in National Parks

If current trends continue, the report says the glaciers in Glacier National Park could all be melted by 2030, along with many of the glaciers and ice caves in the North Cascades National Park, which includes 60 percent of all glacier-covered land in the United States outside Alaska. Within a few years, snow-covered peaks in many parks could be bare of snow throughout the summer; forests, mountain meadows and wildflowers will be sharply reduced; while droughts, wildfires, erosion and floods will increase.

National Parks Home to Complex Ecosystems

The reports shows the fragile and complex connections that make up natural ecosystems, and how a serious environmental impact from global warming in one area of a national park can begin a chain reaction with devastating effects.

For example, as global warming lessens the extreme cold that normally keeps mountain bark beetles in check, they are multiplying and infesting whitebark pines—a high-altitude species that was previously outside their range—and threatening the trees with extinction. Whitebark pines are an important source of food for grizzly bears, and their loss would drive the bears into more populated areas in search of food, creating another serious risk to their long-term survival.

Endangered U.S. National Parks

According to the report, the 12 U.S. national parks at greatest risk 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.

Save America’s National Parks

According to the NRDC and The Rocky Mountain Climate Organization, the changes outlined by the report are not inevitable. In the report, the two groups call on the U.S. government to “establish sensible standards that begin to significantly reduce our emissions of heat-trapping gases within 10 years.”

The environmentalists also recommend a number of other actions that people and agencies can take to reduce global warming or prevent the worst potential impacts of climate change, including calling on the National Park Service to do more to identify and preserve park resources that are at risk from global warming.


Edited by Frederic Beaudry.