Devils Postpile National Monument

About the Park

Devils Postpile National Monument, located on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada range, was established to protect and provide access to the Postpile and Rainbow Falls. The Postpile is a striking formation of columnar basalt, rising up to 60 feet in height, formed from eruption and uniform cooling of basalt lava. The San Joaquin River transforms throughout Devils Postpile, from a broad, low-gradient meander to scattered pools, fast-flowing rapids, cascades, and finally culminating at Rainbow Falls, a waterfall that stands 101 feet tall.

Devils Postpile National Monument

Climate change presents significant risks and challenges to the National Park Service and specifically to Devils Postpile National Monument. Scientists cannot predict with certainty the severity of climate change nor its effects but a relatively modest increase in temperature is expected to affect precipitation, fire regimes, and organism habitats in the local ecosystems. The most pronounced changes are likely to be seen in snowpack volume, surface water dynamics, and hydrologic processes. For example, regional average temperature increases would cause earlier snowmelt runoff, reduce summer base flow in local streams and rivers, lower snowpack volume at mid-elevations, and increase the incidence and severity of winter and spring flooding. Changes in the type and timing of precipitation are already being observed within the park and surrounding areas, as flow in many western Sierra Nevada streams has been observed to begin one to three weeks earlier than in the mid 20th century. Prolonged summer droughts have altered natural fire regimes and increased the potential for high severity wildfires.

Increasing temperature and changing precipitation patterns could also result in a shift of specific habitat to higher elevations. Local flora and fauna with specific needs and limited mobility could be locally extirpated, resulting in a decline of biodiversity. For example, high alpine habitat may shrink or even disappear, leading to an irreversible loss in species such as pika, Belding’s ground squirrel, yellow bellied marmot, and Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep. The 2009 Devils Postpile Wetland Inventory and Condition Assessment revealed that 8.5% of the Monument is wetlands, which are also at risk of being impacted by changes in temperature and hydrologic regimes. Additional effects from changes in climate and precipitation patterns in Devils Postpile could include diminished integrity of meadows, seeps, springs, tributaries, and the San Joaquin River, thus compromising the vitality, diversity, and distribution of native species and habitats.

This Action Plan identifies steps that Devils Postpile National Monument can undertake to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and mitigate its impact on climate change. The plan presents the Park’s emission reduction goals, and associated reduction actions to achieve the park’s goals. The park’s Environmental Management System will describe priorities and details to implement these actions, integrating emission reduction strategies into regular park operations and activities.

Emissions Profile

GHG emissions result from the combustion of fossil fuels for transportation and energy (e.g., boilers and electricity generation), the decomposition of waste and other organic matter, and the volatilization or release of gases from various other sources (e.g., fertilizers and refrigerants). At Devils Postpile National Monument, the main sources of energy are propane and wood for heating buildings, purchased electricity, gasoline for the vehicle fleet and for gas-powered equipment.

In 2008, GHG emissions within Devils Postpile National Monument totaled 46 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTCO2E). This includes emissions from park and cooperating association operations and visitor activities, including vehicle use within the park. For perspective, a typical single family home in the U.S. produces approximately 12MTCO2 per year (U.S. EPA, Greenhouse Gases Equivalencies Calculators – Calculations and References, Retrieved; Website: Thus, the combined emissions from park, its cooperating association, and visitor activities within the park are roughly equivalent to the emissions produced by four U.S. households each year.

The largest emission sectors for Devils Postpile National Monument are transportation and waste, each totaling 19 MTCO2E. The transportation sector is the combined emissions from park operations and visitor vehicles. All visitors, with some exceptions, are required to ride the shuttle bus, which significantly reduces emissions from visitor vehicles. It is estimated that the required use of the shuttle bus reduced vehicle miles traveled (VMT) into the monument by 437,779 miles in the 2009 season; this reduction in VMT decreased the CO2 emissions of our visitors by approximately 118 MTCO2E.

The graph below, taken from our Action Plan, shows our baseline emissions in 2008 broken down into sectors.



Devils Postpile National Monument intends to reduce emissions produced by park operations as follows:

  • Energy use emissions to 35 percent below 2008 levels by 2016.
  • Waste emissions to 35 percent below 2008 levels by 2016 through waste diversion and reduction.
  • Maintain transportation emission levels.

To read more about what we are doing at Devils Postpile National Monument about Climate Change, check out our Action Plan!