Moving Beyond the Past

A hand arranges small colored papers on large sheet of paper, looking almost like a flowchart

For decades, parks were managed to maintain a baseline "natural" condition. But climate change is creating a new and dynamic environment in which we cannot always assume a continuation of historical patterns. Thus, the National Park Service has developed guidance and decision support tools that improve park planning efforts in response to continually shifting conditions. These tools are created, revised and revisited in step with our evolving understanding of climate change.

Existing planning documents, such as National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review, park general management plans, and park resource stewardship strategies will incorporate climate change into all phases. To allow parks to better cope with uncertainty in future climate conditions, scenario-based climate change adaptation offers an additional approach. When future conditions are uncertain, formulating multiple scenarios and then finding the beneficial actions common to each of the potential futures becomes an efficient approach and will be used for park planning. This approach can best be summed up as being prepared for worst-case scenarios, best-case scenarios, and a range of future alternatives in between.

Cover of "Planning for a Changing Climate" report, with title overlaid over several national park photos

Planning for a Changing Climate

Considering multiple future scenarios is important to inform how parks adapt to projected change across the breadth of NPS resources and stewardship responsibilities. For example, the design of visitor facilities at Cape Cod National Seashore, the rehabilitation of historic structures at Fort Pulaski National Monument, and the management of trout populations at Glacier National Park must all be climate-informed. Thus, the National Park Service published Planning for a Changing Climate as a comprehensive resource to guide servicewide climate-smart adaptation planning. The guidance helps planners and managers develop forward-looking goals and evaluate strategies and actions in light of multiple plausible futures associated with a changing climate.

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    Last updated: January 5, 2024


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