Planning for Climate Change in the National Park Service

Created: 12/17/2010 - Updated: 3/02/2020


The National Park Service (NPS) manages over 84 million acres in coastal, freshwater, and terrestrial environments in the United States. In September 2010, the NPS released a Climate Change Response Strategy, which includes mitigation and adaptation responses, to address projected climate change effects on these managed areas.


The NPS manages 392 national parks and 40 national heritage sites over 84 million acres throughout the states and territories of the United States. These managed areas span a variety of biomes and eco-regions, all of which will experience the effects of global climate change, including temperature changes, sea level rise, evaporation and precipitation alterations, changes in growing seasons, and increases in extreme weather events. The NPS has created a series of initiatives to respond to climate change.


In September 2010, the NPS released its Climate Change Response Strategy, guided by its Climate Change Response Program (established in 2007), which is divided into four areas: Science, Mitigation, Education, and Adaptation. The first three programs focus on applying the best available science on climate change to park management, reducing greenhouse gas emissions in park activities, and using national parks to educate the public on global climate change impacts and agency response efforts. As part of the Adaptation Program, the NPS created five overall goals:

  1. Utilize adaptive management and scenario planning to integrate climate change into NPS planning (e.g., scenario planning case studies were developed for Joshua Tree National Park and Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park at a 2007 workshop; see related case studies)
  2. Promote resilience, restoration, conservation, and preservation of natural resources in park management practices
  3. Develop strategies that preserve cultural resources that are vulnerable to climate change
  4. Require vulnerability assessments for funding decisions
  5. Increase sustainability of park infrastructure

In addition, the NPS also facilitates scientific research through its Inventory and Monitoring Program in which over 270 parks participate. The two main goals of the program are to “inventory the natural resources under [NPS] stewardship to determine their nature and status and monitor park ecosystems to better understand their dynamic nature and condition and to provide reference points for comparisons with other, altered environments.” Monitoring will assist park scientists and managers to identify ecosystem changes and trends.

Outcomes and Conclusions

The NPS has developed its own Climate Change Response Strategy complete with mitigation and adaptation actions that are complementary to the Department of Interior’s guidelines established in Secretarial Order 3289, which calls for all Interior bureaus and offices to participate in a department-wide climate change strategy.


Information collected through online resources. Updated 12/10/2010.


Gregg, R. M. (2010). Planning for Climate Change in the National Park Service [Case study on a project of the National Park Service]. Product of EcoAdapt's State of Adaptation Program. Retrieved from CAKE:… (Last updated December 2010)

Project Contact(s)

Since 1916, the American people have entrusted the National Park Service with the care of their national parks. With the help of volunteers and park partners, we are proud to safeguard these nearly 400 places and to share their stories with more than 275 million visitors every year. But our work doesn’t stop there.


Sector Addressed
Conservation / Restoration
Land Use Planning
Tourism / Recreation
Target Climate Changes and Impacts
Air temperature
Culture / communities
Habitat extent
Infrastructure damage
Invasive / non-native species, pests
Phenological shifts
Range shifts
Salinization / Saltwater intrusion
Sea level rise
Storms or extreme weather events
Water temperature
Climate Type
Type of Adaptation Action/Strategy
Capacity Building
Design or reform institutions
Create new institutions
Increase organizational capacity
Coordinate planning and management
Increase / Improve public awareness, education, and outreach efforts
Conduct / Gather additional research, data, and products
Governance and Policy
Create new or enhance existing policies or regulations
Effort Stage
In progress

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