On April 16, 2008, Point Reyes National Seashore became a member of the Climate Friendly Parks Network; a collaboration between the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Park Service. As a Climate Friendly Park, the Seashore became one of only 35 other National Park Service sites, including Yosemite National Park, Yellowstone National Park and Golden Gate National Recreation Area, committed to taking stock of and reducing their carbon footprint.
Point Reyes has reduced its total emission of greenhouse gasses to 5,953 metric tons in 2007 from 7,663 metric tons in 2005, and plans further reductions of 15% by 2016. Therefore, the park has reduced its gross emissions by 1,710 metric tons below 2005 levels. Solar power generates more than 14 percent of all park electricity and runs 5 park vehicles. Additionally, the park sequesters (removes from the atmosphere) 30,000 metric tons of carbon in plants communities such as coastal forests, chaparral, grasslands and estuary eelgrass. These figures indicate the park is a major sink and significantly reduces greenhouse gases.
In order to achieve the Climate Friendly designation, a park must conduct a greenhouse gas inventory and complete a plan with specific steps to be taken to reduce those emissions. In its newly developed Climate Action Plan, Point Reyes National Seashore has pledged to reduce carbon emissions in the future through conservation, best management practices and innovative technologies.
Specific examples of actions to be implemented by the National Seashore are:
- Conduct experimental shuttle system during the summer of 2008 from Bear Valley to Limantour Beach to reduce private vehicle emissions,
- Expansion of solar systems to additional park facilities,
- Encourage bike to work days to promote alternative transportation, and
- Convert incandescent lights to fluorescent or LED lights throughout the park.
One innovative technology may be to use methane digesters to convert manure into electrical energy and heat. Because the Seashore is home to six dairy ranches, methane digesters may provide multiple benefits by reducing emissions of methane (a greenhouse gas), producing energy and reducing agricultural wastes. Several ranchers have expressed strong interest in working with the park on reducing methane gas and installing digesters. As a Climate Friendly Park, the Seashore will develop educational tools and materials to increase public awareness of climate change issues.
One of the more obvious challenges for Point Reyes National Seashore stemming from climate change is the predicted rise in sea level as a result of melting glaciers and polar icecaps. The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts that sea level will rise between 0.6 feet to two feet in the next century. The scientific modeling shows us that the consequences for our park’s coastal landscapes are serious, including flooding, beach erosion, and saltwater intrusion.
A 2005 report by the U.S. Geological Survey entitled “Coastal Vulnerability Assessment of Point Reyes National Seashore to Sea-Level Rise” (html or 14 MB PDF)indicates that areas such as Limantour Beach and Drakes Beach, which are ecologically important as well as favored visitor attractions, will go through the most drastic alterations due to sea level rise.
For information on the Climate Friendly Parks Program and a list of member parks, go to: http://www.nps.gov/climatefriendlyparks/index.html.