By Helen Hossley
Our national parks have been in the news a lot lately. I’d like to think it’s for all the right reasons. By training, Interpretive Park Rangers disseminate facts and information. They spend hours, days and sometimes, years researching and cross-referencing books, articles, interview transcripts, and other data to gain knowledge of the site they in which they work. They do so willingly so that they can pass their awareness and wisdom along to us, the visiting public. On a national level, the Park Service took a broad view to what affects our sites. Every year the Park Service reports record breaking visitation. It is no secret that tourism brings economic benefits along with the stress of more and more everything that goes along with people such as vehicles, impact on the resource, disposal of trash and the need for personnel to manage it all. There was one factor that eclipsed record breaking visitation as the greatest threat to our National Parks — climate change.
On January 6, 2017, the National Park Service published its first-ever Cultural Resources Climate Change Strategy that received approval from the Union of Concerned Scientists. The National Park Service is the lead cultural resource agency for the federal government. In addition the plethora of buildings this new strategy includes archeological sites, museum collections, ethnographic resources (heritage traditionally important to diverse cultural groups) and cultural landscapes. Retired NPS Director Jon Jarvis noted that, “Climate change poses an especially acute problem for managing cultural resources because they are unique and irreplaceable — once lost, they are lost forever.”
The study identifies 21 categories of direct and indirect climate change interactions that are already or will in the future affect cultural resources, including: increased temperature, wildfires, flooding and coastal erosion, permafrost thawing, high water tables and salt water intrusion to name a few. One key strategy is for the NPS to partner and collaborate with others within the US and globally to discover best practices and innovative approaches. Unique to the Park Service is the development of climate change literacy and interpretative training programs for park mangers and rangers.
“With over 300 million park visitors annually, the Park Service is poised to bring the best available climate science directly to the American people in ways that they can easily understand and in places that they care deeply about,” says Adam Markham, Deputy Director, Climate & Energy Program, Union of Concerned Scientists.
I have no doubt the professionalism and passion of our Interpretative Rangers will be a shining beacon in leading the education efforts in the all encompassing topic of climate change.
Helen Hossley is the author of “Do I Get to Wear That Neat Hat?” To find out more about her book visit her website at www.helenhossley.com