Protecting Roosevelt’s legacy from climate change

As you’ve read above, the creation of our national parks and public lands was a serious feat but ensuring their health and vibrancy over the long term requires a sustained effort. While the Trump administration has moved to open up public lands to oil and gas drilling and logging, they’re also refused to acknowledge climate change which is threatening many of our most cherished public lands. It’s for this reason that last week the Natural Resources Committee continued its series of hearings on climate change impacts across the country with a hearing in the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forest, and Public lands – led by Chair Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) – on Climate Change and Public Lands: Examining Impacts and Considering Adaptation Opportunities. According to the committee, expert witnesses suggested our public lands, national parks, and historic sites face a grim future without more aggressive action to combat climate change and effects that will include:

Glaciers melting:

  • In Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska, climate change melted 2,100 ft. of ice (depth) from Muir Glacier from 1948 to 2000. (You can also watch the NatGeo video above to see the similar threat witnessed at Glacier National Park)

Snowpack decline:

  • Across the western U.S., including North Cascades National Park and 10 other national parks, climate change has melted snowpack to its lowest level in eight centuries.

Sea level rise:

  • Climate change has raised sea level by 9 inches since 1854 at Golden Gate National Recreation Area in San Francisco; by 17 inches since 1856 in New York City, not far from the Statue of Liberty National Monument; and by 12 inches since 1924 in Washington, D.C., not far from the Jefferson Memorial and the White House, which are managed by the National Park Service.

 Wildfire increase: 

  • Across the western U.S., including Yellowstone National Park and Yosemite National Park, climate change doubled the area burned by wildfire from 1984 to 2015 compared to the area of natural burning.

The majority of Americans want to keep protections for public lands and a poll from the University of Montana found that 24% would like to see increased protection. In addition this,  the Trump era has been a wakeup call to many Americans who for the first time felt that federal protection of these natural places was coming under serious risk. President Franklin Roosevelt didn’t foresee a planet drastically altered by climate change but honoring his legacy means that we must address new threats to our public lands wherever they may come from as they are part of makes America truly great. However, in order to do this, we must ensure that all candidates running for president acknowledge the urgency of climate change and have a plan to drastically reduce our emissions and bolster adaptation efforts.


Why This Matters: Some presidents have designated more national monuments and parks than others but if we are to preserve these special places from the threats of a warming planet then we will need a president and Congress who are committed to their protection. The recently released Green New Deal resolution calls for “ensuring that public lands, waters, and oceans are protected and that eminent domain is not abused” which is a modern-day extension of the conservation work that President Roosevelt set in motion through the original New Deal. The new resolution continues our commitment to natural areas to not only protect the heritage they represent but also the ecosystem services they provide, like carbon sequestration and improving air quality (not to mention their benefit to our economy).

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