Contribution of the America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act to Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation Efforts

Created: 11/23/2020 -


The America's Red Rock Wilderness Act (ARRWA) proposes the protection of around 9 million acres of public lands in Utah under the Wilderness Act of 1964, which is designed to permanently protect intact, high-quality ecosystems. The proposed wilderness lands are dominated by desert, grassland, and shrubland ecosystems within a landscape characterized by rugged mountains and red rock canyons, cliffs, mesas, and other natural formations. The area is home to many rare and/or endemic species and unique biological communities as well as extensive biological soil crusts that play a critical role in soil stabilization, water infiltration, and carbon sequestration in arid landscapes. However, these lands are also under high pressure from oil and gas drilling, mining, off-road vehicle use, and other human activities that degrade the landscape.

This project focused on determining whether and how protection of proposed ARRWA lands would contribute to climate adaptation and mitigation efforts. The final report outlines three ways that permanent protection of ARRWA lands could enhance ecosystem adaptation climate change: protection of potential climate refugia, increased landscape connectivity to facilitate species migration/dispersal and range shifts, and reduction of surface disturbances (e.g., fossil fuel development, livestock grazing, off-road vehicle use) that exacerbate the impacts of climate change. We also present the results of two separate analyses conducted to quantify the climate mitigation benefits of protecting ARRWA lands. First, we estimated the amount of oil, gas, and coal resources present on ARRWA lands and greenhouse gas emissions that would be associated with extraction and combustion of those resources. Second, we modeled carbon stocks on ARRWA lands under future climate conditions, and discussed the role that reducing surface disturbances would play in maintaining ecosystem capacity for carbon sequestration and storage.

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EcoAdapt is at the center of climate change adaptation innovation. We provide support, training, and assistance to make conservation and management less vulnerable and more Climate Savvy. Over the past 200 years, great strides have been made in the world of conservation and now all of that is at risk because of climate change. EcoAdapt is working to ensure the success of these past efforts by delivering a framework for climate adaptation.


Adaptation Phase
State / Provincial
Sector Addressed
Conservation / Restoration
Water Resources
Type of Adaptation Action/Strategy
Natural Resource Management / Conservation
Enhance migration corridors and other connectivity measures
Create new refugia / Increase size and amount of protected areas
Design protected areas or lands to allow inland, altitudinal, or latitudinal movement
Reduce non-climate stressors
Conduct / Gather additional research, data, and products
Target Climate Changes and Impacts
Air temperature
Habitat extent
Invasive / non-native species, pests
Range shifts
Species of concern
Water quality
Water supply
Water temperature
Habitat/Biome Type
Sociopolitical Setting