NY Times: “Climate Change Forces Brutal Choices at National Parks”

The New York Times today: “What to Save? Climate Change Forces Brutal Choices at National Parks.”

For decades, the core mission of the Park Service was absolute conservation. Now ecologists are being forced to do triage, deciding what to safeguard — and what to let slip away.

Probably available only to subscribers. However, the article has a link to this USF&WS web page on the topic.

NY Times excerpt:

The first one [of Park Service two papers], titled “Resist, Accept, Direct,” aims to help park employees triage species and landscapes. In some cases, that will mean giving up long efforts to save them. The second outlines how to assess risks when relocating species. That may be crucial to saving plants and animals that can no longer survive in their natural habitat.

Those two papers were the basis for the guidance published last month. On the very first page of that document, set over a photo of the charred Santa Monica Mountains after the 2018 Woolsey fire, the authors state that “it will not be possible to safeguard all park resources, processes, assets, and values in their current form or context over the long term.”

Decisions about what to protect are especially imminent for forests, where changes are leading some researchers to wonder if the age of North American woodlands is coming to an end.

In the United States Southwest, for example, research suggests that, in the event of wildfires, up to 30 percent of forestland might never grow back because global warming favors shrubs or grasslands in their ranges. Joshua trees appear likely to lose all of their habitat in their namesake national park by the end of the century.

6 thoughts on “NY Times: “Climate Change Forces Brutal Choices at National Parks””

  1. So, with the recent mortality at the private Alder Creek tract of giant sequoias, will the Park Service do more ‘active management’ (hand-felling, brush-piling, raking, pile burning and prescribed fire) within those groves?

    I wonder if the plans (for wildfire resilience) of the Save the Redwoods League would have significantly changed the outcome, had they been completed (over many more years… They’ve only had it for about a year, so far).

  2. Well, I suppose the NPS has decided that the new Land and Water Conservation Fund money won’t suffice.

    Since the time of Babylon and Troy, no bureaucracy has ever declared that it has enough money.

    Rather, bureaucracies, when given more money, use it to expand their missions, hire more people, and ask for yet more money. Wash, rinse, repeat.

    I’d be more impressed with the NPS’s complaint and this article’s hyperbolic take on it (“the change is brutal”) if national parks didn’t run things like jails and courtrooms, and hire federal judges to oversee them. And have all of those law-enforcement personnel, whose armed status makes them expensive.

    Nor have I ever noticed a shortage of employees at any national park I’ve visited. Even remote ones seem very healthily staffed.

    Get rid of the gun-toting rangers and you might save 10% of the NPS budget right there. The county sheriff can investigate violations inside the parks.

    • Hello, It’s obvious you have complaints about the NPS but your comments about law enforcement, number of employees, etc. is so far off the mark re: the content of the news article it makes me wonder about your perspective.
      I’m more interested to hear your ideas re: the future of ecosystems in the face of climate change. Please let us know what you think about those topics. Thanks.

      • Hi, Old Woodsman,

        Thank you in turn for asking.

        Climate change poses a major challenge for the fauna and flora of our public lands. I favor a carbon tax as the most efficient way to reduce the United States’s carbon footprint. And, of course, continued development of wind, solar, and nuclear energy, though I predict you’ll find at least one environmental campaign group opposed to each of those energy sources.

        But the carbon-tax proposal is dead in the proverbial water in Congress. Republicans don’t like the idea of taxes generally. Democrats think a carbon tax is a civil-rights violation that harms the “underserved,” with, in their view, their older, less fuel-efficient cars.

        Of course I’m generalizing. There may be a handful in each party that favors this approach. But it’s a small minority.

        As for the gun-toting rangers, I could be wrong about a 10% savings. Maybe it’s 3%. If so, why not eliminate that wasteful expenditure? You think that the county sheriff can’t handle law violations in a park? Every national park is within some county, Alaska borough, or Louisiana parish.

        I appreciate your invitation to this dialogue.

  3. After writing my other reply to Old Woodsman, I realized that I didn’t address his contention that my original post is “far off the mark re the content of the news article.”

    My point was, and is, that the article’s alarmist rhetoric is at odds with its failure to ask if the NPS can’t find ways to trim its budget while preserving the environment. I gave the presence of the NPS’s unnecessary law-enforcement apparatus as one example.

    The NPS is unhappy, and The New York Times dutifully conveyed its unhappiness in these overblown terms:

    “… ecologists are being forced to do triage, deciding what to safeguard — and what to let slip away.”

    “… what will vanish forever.”

    ” … the change is brutal.”

    ” … triage species and landscapes…. giving up long efforts to save them.”

    ” … researchers … wonder if the age of North American woodlands is coming to an end.” (Now, that is a howler of the first order, given increased North American forest cover, though western droughts do pose a serious problem. Which “researchers” are we talking about? They are not identified.)

    Are there problems and challenges? Of course. Does climate change aggravate them? Often, yes. But the article is, predictably, a piece of advocacy journalism that doesn’t devote one column inch to asking how the NPS might reshape itself to focus on climate change threats rather than reflexively maintain its operational structure. The latter is what bureaucracies do and have done since time immemorial, all the while pleading for more money.

  4. Lourenço

    It wouldn’t be an NY Times article without what you call hyperbole or I might call vastly overblown verbiage (VOV). Here’s my summary:

    Changes are happening
    We could try to do things to make conditions better in some way for some species. some people close to the action are thinking about trying some things.
    Other people think that that’s a bad idea because bad things could happen from the things that people want to try.


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