Great Basin National Park

About the Park

Apostle Islands NL

Great Basin National Park encompasses 77,000 acres of the South Snake Range in eastern Nevada. The Park preserves a small representative piece of the entire Hydrographic Great Basin, a 200,000 square mile area that drains internally. All precipitation in the region evaporates, sinks underground or flows into lakes (mostly saline). Creeks, streams, or rivers find no outlet to either the Gulf of Mexico or the Pacific Ocean. The region is bounded by the Wasatch Mountains to the east, the Sierra Nevada to the west, and the Snake River Plain to the north. The south rim is less distinct. The Great Basin includes most of Nevada, half of Utah, and sections of Idaho, Wyoming, Oregon, and California.

Climate change presents significant risks and challenges to the National Park Service and specifically to Great Basin National Park. Scientists cannot predict with certainty the general severity of climate change nor its impacts. Average global temperatures on the Earth’s surface have increased about 1.1°F since the late 19th century, and the 10 warmest years of the 20th century all occurred in the last 15 years.  Rising global temperatures will further raise sea levels and affect all aspects of the water cycle, including snow cover, mountain glaciers, spring runoff, water temperature, and aquatic life. Climate change is also expected to affect human health, crop production, animal and plant habitats, and many other features of our natural and managed environments.

Over the past 100 years the climate of the Great Basin has changed. Temperatures and precipitation have increased, snowpack has declined and spring has arrived earlier. Predictions of the effects of climate change in the Great Basin are complex but are apparently being realized. Cheatgrass (a non-native invasive species) now dominates over 20% of the Great Basin. Fire intensity and frequency has increased. Montane mammals have experienced local extinctions. Subalpine vegetation has retreated uphill, forest damage by insects has increased, and stream flows are decreasing. These occurrences are at least partially attributable to climate change.

This Action Plan identifies steps that Great Basin National Park can undertake to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 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. While the plan provides a framework needed to meet the park’s emission reduction, it is not intended to provide detailed instructions on how to implement each of the proposed measures. The park’s Environmental Management System will describe priorities and details to implement these actions.

Emissions Profile

Great Basin National Park facilities include two visitor centers, four developed campgrounds, numerous primitive campsites, and a 12-mile paved scenic drive. The park is open year-round (with reduced access in winter) and receives between 80,000 and 90,000 visitors per year.

In 2008, GHG emissions within Great Basin National Park totaled 659 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTCO2E). This includes emissions from park and concessioner operations and visitor activities, including vehicle use within the park.

The largest emission sector for GRBA is transportation when visitor contributions are included at 307 MTCO2E . However, for park operations, energy is the largest contributor of emissions, at 239 MTCO2E. Transportation and waste are nearly equal at 92 and 91. To meet an overall reduction goal of 40% by 2016, significant reductions must be made in all three categories.

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

Graph of GHG Emissions


Great Basin National Park intends to reduce its operational carbon footprint by 40% by 2016. This will be accomplished through a 45% reduction in energy emissions, 35% reducation in transportation emissions and a 40% reduction in emissions generated from solid waste.

To read more about what we are doing at Great Basin National Park about climate change, check out our Action Plan!