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Rising to the Challenges of Climate Change

As human activity drives changes to our modern climate, we must address the challenges climate change brings to our parks. From the melting of glaciers in Kenai Fjords National Park to the sea level rise near the Statue of Liberty National Monument, these effects are already impacting our parks and immediate investment is needed to help combat these impacts.

Working in partnership with the National Park Service (NPS), the National Park Foundation (NPF) supports programs and projects that help us understand the effects of climate change on our parks and work to mitigate these effects so we can continue to preserve these special places. Together we are helping restore habitats to ensure ecosystem resiliency, implementing alternative energy solutions, installing recycling facilities to cut down on the waste sent to landfills, empowering parks and visitors everywhere to act against these challenges, and so much more.

NPF's Work in This Space

NPF supports programs and projects that seek a scientific understanding of climate change's many impacts in parks, as well as those that combat these impacts.

  • A blue sky reflects on a still lake
    Program
    Conserving Water
    Fresh water is a vital limited resource that preserves park ecosystems. NPF’s Conserving Water program supports projects that reduce potable water use in parks, including retrofitting faucets and toilets, installing rainwater catchment systems, and more.
  • Recycling bins lined up next to each other
    Program
    Reducing Waste Sent to Landfills
    NPF works closely with NPS to support their goal of annually diverting 50% of solid waste from landfills by 2025 and 75% by 2030 through include infrastructure support, employee and visitor education, and enhancing recycling and composting initiatives.
  • Sunset view of a path through a desert landscape
    Program
    Reducing Energy
    Investments in renewable and alternative energy projects are critical to cutting emissions, decreasing energy use, and improving reliability of energy infrastructure. NPF supports projects such as installing solar panels, investing in electric vehicles, and more.
  • An array of thin, tall trees
    Program
    Habitat Conservation
    Climate change, invasive species, habitat degradation, and ecosystem fragmentation are putting national park landscapes at risk. NPF’s Habitat Conservation program supports high priority ecosystem restoration and resiliency projects to help ensure the biodiverse ecosystems in our parks remain vibrant.
  • A couple sea turtles paddle on the sand towards the water at sunset
    Program
    Wildlife
    To stay resilient in the face of climate change and other threats to ecosystems, parks must carefully monitor wildlife and their habitats. NPF supports priority natural resource projects to help study and conserve native species in a changing climate.
  • Arrowleaf Balsamroot around Antelope Flats, Grand Teton National Park
    Program
    Land Conservation
    To conserve the most significant and threatened lands in our country, NPF works with NPS and nonprofit partners to acquire these properties and add them to the National Park System.
  • A service corps crew, all in hardhats, walks along an elevated wooden platform through a wood
    Program
    Service Corps
    NPF works with national parks and other partner organizations to engage diverse youth and young adults to serve in teams on service corps crews, tackling top-priority projects such as the removal of invasive species and restoring habitats.
  • A student and a ranger crouch down to examine a sample, held in a plastic container
    Program
    Field Science
    NPF’s Field Science program encourages teachers to use parks as science classrooms to enhance student’s understanding of scientific concepts, such as the effects of climate change.

Recent Projects

Explore just some of the projects supported by NPF that help preserve and rise to the challenge of a changing climate.

  • Two people sit together and look out at a tropical vista
    Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park
    Protecting Vulnerable Coastlines
    Pōhue Bay, located on the island of Hawaiʻi, is a white sand beach with calm shores and anchialine ponds, which are a beloved community resource, and offers the finest offshore fishing opportunities on the island. In 2022, NPF supported The Trust for Public Land and the National Park Service to add this 16,456-acre cherished property to Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, preserving the area's unique natural and cultural resources from development.
  • A person wearing green surgical gloves holds up a mountain lion's paw
    Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area
    Studying Mountain Lions' Response to Wildfires
    NPF funded a study on the resiliency of mountain lions to wildfire in Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. Due to climate change and an increase in human fire ignitions, wildfires are becoming more frequent and intense, which is detrimental to the park's habitat and species, including mountain lions. The study mapped the vegetation structures impacted by the wildfires and the effect that degradation of habitat had on mountain lion populations. The scientists discovered that large wildfires can cause mountain lions to more often take deadly risks in order to survive and reproduce.
  • Sandia Mountains in the distance, across a desert landscape
    Petroglyph National Monument
    Hydration Stations at Petroglyph
    Thanks to funding from NPF partner Hydro Flask, Petroglyph National Monument installed water refill stations on the patio of the Visitor Center and the restroom of Boca Negra Canyon. These stations will enhance the visitor experience and reduce plastic waste in the park.
  • Sunset over a tree-lined lake
    National Parks of Lake Superior
    Supporting Decarbonization of Lake Superior Units
    A 2022 NPF Strong Parks, Strong Communities grant to National Parks of Lake Superior Foundation will help the organization boost capacity, including bringing on a support staff and grant writer, all part of an the effort to develop a plan to fully decarbonize all five NPS units on Lake Superior.
  • Two people stand in an arid landscape and point toward the horizon
    Big Bend National Park
    Powering Panther Junction
    NPF granted funds to Big Bend Conservancy to support the installation of a solar array and shade structures covering parking areas at the Panther Junction Visitor Center at Big Bend National Park in Texas. The installation will be the park’s pilot solar program and will provide 100% of the energy needs of the visitor center and reduce costs for years to come.
  • snowshoe hare
    Isle Royale national Park
    Studying Camouflage Mismatch of Snowshoe Hares
    Isle Royale National Park is home to the longest predator-prey study on record. Snowshoe hares are a key piece of the island’s food web, which has experienced shifting dynamics and hares are particularly vulnerable to climate change because of a camouflage mismatch as snow seasons shorten. With the help of NPF funding, NPS and the University of Wisconsin-Madison are collecting data and analyzing various factors to help better understand the viability of snowshoe hare populations in the long term.
  • Nicodemus National Historical Park
    Protecting Park Communities
    A recent NPF grant enabled The Trust for Public Land to successfully purchase and donate a parcel of land within the Township of Nicodemus, Kansas to NPS that will serve as the location of Nicodemus National Historical Park's permanent visitor’s center and a tornado shelter for the residents of the town. As extreme weather events increase in frequency and severity, national park sites that preserve living history also shelter current communities from the storm.
  • Saguaro cactus
    Saguaro National Park
    Protecting Habitat for a Rare Desert Frog
    At Saguaro National Park, the lowland leopard frog is a desert-adapted amphibian that is increasingly at risk because of climate change and habitat loss. A three-year NPF funded restoration project engages local community and school group volunteers to remove fountain grass, which strains already limited water sources, and restore more climate-resilient native habitat for this rare desert frog. Once optimal habitat conditions return, the park will reintroduce leopard frogs back into three major canyon streams.

Related Stories

  • A group of people, working under a pop-up tent, put together a wooden structure
    Feature
    Restoring Timucuan
    With a rise in park visitation and increasingly strong storms at Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve, the Florida park’s shorelines are becoming increasingly fragile. Explore how a group of rangers, scientists, and teens are working together to restore the shorelines through an oyster restoration project.
  • Moseley empties a compost bucket into the communal compost bin at Yosemite Village
    Feature
    Waste Not, Want Not
    Part of the Subaru-funded Don’t Feed the Landfills Initiative, Yosemite National Park’s composting and fuel cylinder diversion and recycling programs have grown tremendously. Meet the person leading the charge.
  • Video
    Investing in Service Corps Projects
    In spring 2022, NPF was invited to participate in discussions about the role of parks in climate resiliency and environmental stewardship during the Aspen Ideas Climate event. As part of this, NPF announced a $4.1 million investment in service corps programs across the country, with many projects helping parks respond to the challenges of a changing climate.
  • Recycling trailer outside a one-story building
    Program Update
    Recycling at Wrangell - St. Elias
    NPF partnered with Tupperware to fund the development and creation of an innovative and strategic new park-wide recycling plan at Alaska’s Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve in 2021, and the park continues to build on Tupperware’s investment as they execute the plan.
  • A person in safety gear looks out at a controlled burn
    Program Update
    Women of Fire
    National parks have the potential to deal with both structural fire and wildland fire within park boundaries. And while many women are interested in wildland fire management, less than 5% of fire management leadership positions are held by women at the park level. NPF, with support from REI Co-op, is helping NPS increase diversity within the ranks of the wildland fire workforce by funding new women’s fire corps crews.
  • A prairie dog holds a small snack
    Program Update
    Prairie Dogs at Petrified Forest
    In the summer of 2022, an NPF-supported project at Petrified Forest National Park translocated 100 Gunnison’s prairie dogs to the park. It’s part of a long-term approach to boost and maintain populations of the keystone species, which is on the decline due to habitat loss, disease, and the effects of climate change.
  • Two people clean up a paved trail
    Video
    Cleaning Up Hawaii Volcanoes
    Throughout the summer of 2022, the Guardians of the Trails Youth Intern Program removed invasive plant species from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to protect native species and restore habitats. This project was made possible through REI Co-op's support of NPF’s service corps program.

NPS Resources

  • Field Science program collecting data in the a salt marsh
    NPS Article
    Understand the Science
    In all management efforts, NPS uses best-available science to inform their decision-making. Learn more about how NPS is thinking globally and acting locally.
  • A group of kids raise their hands in front of a historic mission
    FAQs
    Climate Questions
    There can be confusion around the realities of climate change. Get answers to commonly asked climate questions.
  • Person standing in desert canyon recording data on a field tablet
    A Holistic Approach
    NPS's Strategy
    Successfully responding to climate change requires considering every facet of daily operations in parks. Explore NPS’s Climate Change Response Strategy.
  • A person plants flowers in a windowbox
    Take Positive Actions
    Mitigate the Cause at Home
    There are many actions at home we can take to lessen our greenhouse gas emissions, benefitting our parks as well as the people who enjoy them. Check out NPS's top tips.