Washington State Parks Adaptation Plan

Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission
Posted on: 9/20/2021 - Updated on: 10/01/2021

Posted by

Kathryn Braddock



Washington State Parks is already experiencing climate-related impacts, which will be exacerbated by climate change. River flooding in winter has closed campsites, wildfires in the eastern region have damaged park facilities, and extreme tide events regularly flood coastal beaches. This adaptation plan follows the agency’s 2017 vulnerability assessment by identifying potential adaptation strategies and actions to reduce vulnerability to the projected impacts of climate change.

The goal of the Washington State Parks’ adaptation planning process was to collectively identify potential adaptation actions the agency can consider as it works to increase agency-wide resilience to the expected impacts of climate change. Increasing climate resilience through adaptation will help to ensure that State Parks can continue to responsibly manage its resources and provide “memorable recreational and educational experiences” to Washingtonians, even as the climate changes.

This adaptation plan was developed in response to a 2015 resolution passed by the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission directing the agency to develop a climate change preparedness plan. The resolution was motivated by concerns related to the challenges that climate change poses for the agency. This plan identifies adaptation actions to reduce the 20 most pressing climate vulnerabilities identified in the agency’s climate change vulnerability assessment, Preparing Washington State Parks for Climate Change (Section 2), by enhancing resilience and preparing for the projected impacts of climate change. Beyond the list of adaptation actions, a broader goal of the planning process is to facilitate the integration of climate adaptation into decision-making processes by the agency.

This plan, developed in collaboration between staff of Washington State Parks and the University of Washington Climate Impacts Group, is the first step in preparing State Parks for climate change. The plan describes the process (Section 3) used to identify potential, high-priority adaptation actions to increase the resilience of State Parks’ properties, facilities, operations, and state-wide programs to climate change. This plan suggests over-arching principles (Section 4) for State Parks’ approach to climate adaptation that emerged from the process, as well as common themes for the types of actions (Section 5) that are likely to be most important for addressing cross-programmatic concerns.

It is important to note that identifying these potential adaptation actions is just the beginning of the adaptation planning process. Over time, the agency can take the next steps to continue the adaptation planning process (Section 6) by refining adaptation actions, developing an implementation plan, integrating actions into existing plans, processes, and programs (i.e. mainstreaming), and building staff capability to understand and prepare for potential impacts.

Through the adaptation planning process, State Parks’ staff identified 107 potential high-priority adaptation actions. These actions span a range of activities that are representative of current and anticipated work, including policy development, partnership building, outreach, data collection and monitoring, evaluation and assessments, and internal staff capability building.

Of the 107 potential adaptation actions, there are 36 ongoing actions (Section 7) already underway by the agency. These include existing actions that are likely to have benefits for long-term climate resilience, as well as actions that State Parks has already initiated in response to observed impacts of climate change. There are an additional 20 near-term actions (Section 8) for which the agency will strive to make progress on over the next six years. There are 51 long-term actions (Section 9) for which the agency expects will take more than six years to make significant progress.

Affiliated Organizations

The University of Washington Climate Impacts Group builds climate resilience by advancing understanding of climate risks & enabling science-based action to manage those risks. We are widely recognized for scientific discovery, as an experienced creator of impartial & actionable science and as a catalyst for building regional climate resilience.