Climate Change

Trail through green prairie grasses following a ridge of a butte in badlands topography.

NPS/Ryan Marthaller

When a young Theodore Roosevelt visited the North Dakota Badlands, he was so inspired that he went on to protect more than 230 million acres of land. Now, as we look at a world shaped by climate change, this place can inspire us again. Roosevelt reimagined conservation for his time. How can we imagine a new future of conservation around climate change?

Climate change affects everything around us—including the native species and ecosystem that Theodore Roosevelt National Park is set aside to preserve. It has real and devastating impacts on humans and non-humans alike.

As we face a world shaped by climate change, we have to work in community to reimagine the future. We can learn from nature, from each other, and from our history. People have changed the world before. Now, it’s time to do it again.


How are we responding to climate change?

"In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing." - Theodore Roosevelt

A male bison grazes alone in a prairie dog town

NPS Photo

Park managers at Theodore Roosevelt

Managing for climate change is tricky, because we don’t know the exact details of how changes will play out. But in the face of these new challenges, parks are embracing new management strategies. At Theodore Roosevelt, we’re responding by preparing the land and wildlife to resist the impacts of climate change.

To do that, we’re working to keep ecosystems and species as resilient as possible. Resilience is crucial for climate change—the more resilient a species or ecosystem can be, the better equipped it is to survive new and changing conditions.

Here are some ways we’re working toward resilience:


Staff working on the solar panel array at Natural Bridges National Monument

NPS/Andrew Kuhn

Sustainability in the National Park Service

The National Park Service is reducing our greenhouse gas emissions and making a more eco-friendly park experience for visitors. The Green Parks Plan sets out ambitious goals for all parks nationwide to reduce their ecological impact and fight climate change.

Some highlights from the Green Parks Plan:

  • All parks will achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045

  • 75% of trash in parks will be diverted to recycling or compost by 2030

  • Parks will make sure all eligible government cars are zero-emissions

  • Parks will talk to visitors and the public about sustainability and climate change!

Check out these sustainability projects at some parks nearby!


Doing your part

Volunteers with tools and work gloves smile at the camera while on a trail

Connar L'Ecuyer

Everyone can make a difference in our response to climate change. Think about what resources you have, or what you enjoy doing. Is there a connection between those things and climate action?

There are lots of things you can do at home to make your life more climate-friendly. Check out the NPS’ guidance for conservation at home.

But you can also make a big difference by working with other people!

People often talk about Theodore Roosevelt as a solo conservation hero, but he didn’t do it by himself. People around the country worked with him to make change happen. Just like them, you can amplify your voice by working together with your community!

  • Talk to your friends and family about climate change and how it will affect your community. Your voice has an impact, especially with people you know and trust.

  • Join a climate action group in your area. When you work together with others, you can make a big difference. Plus, it helps to connect with other people who care.

  • Be an active citizen, and share your opinions about climate change with your representatives.

  • Volunteer with local ecological groups—or with National Parks like Theodore Roosevelt! Any work that helps ecosystems also helps fight climate change.

A group of female elk with one bull elk bugling in badlands topography.

NPS/Rolan Honeyman

Explore the challenge

"...and to lose the chance to see frigatebirds soaring in circles above the storm, or a file of pelicans winging their way homeward across the crimson afterglow of the sunset...—why, this loss is like the loss of a gallery of the masterpieces of the artists of old time." - Theodore Roosevelt

Climate change is reshaping the world as we know it—and changes will continue to come. We know a lot about what has already changed, and we can make scientific predictions about what’s likely going to happen in the future.

Some changes are going to happen no matter what, because of the impacts that people have already had. But we can still make a big difference in the future of climate change: if we reduce our greenhouse gas emissions now, we can delay or prevent the worst of the impacts.

How have things already changed?

Winding river with red rock embankments and valley of green trees with buttes on either side.

NPS/Kim Wehner

Between 1895 and 2015, North Dakota warmed the most out of the lower 48 states [2].

Scientists measure warming by averaging all the temperatures in a year. Then, they can compare that average to the average temperatures in other years. That way, we can see how temperatures are changing on a broad scale. In North Dakota, average yearly temperatures got about 2°F warmer between 1900 and 2000 [2].

And when we look at just wintertime temperatures, they’ve warmed even more. Between 1900 and 2000, wintertime temperatures increased around 3.3°F [2].

These might sound like small changes, but they have a huge impact. Keep in mind that there’s a difference between climate and weather. It's like with the human body—the difference between feeling fine and having a fever is only a few degrees.


What does the future look like?

Science shows that climate change will continue to shape North Dakota in the future. Scientific models can tell us a lot about what kinds of climate change impacts we’re likely to see in the future. We can’t predict exactly how specific impacts will play out, but we do know that they’re coming.

We also know that the future depends on us. If people reduce our greenhouse gas emissions now, we can make a big difference.



What kinds of impacts will climate change have?


Learn more about climate change



[1] Barbero, R., J. T. Abatzoglou, N. K. Larkin, C. A. Kolden, and B. Stocks. 2015. "Climate change presents increased potential for very large fires in the contiguous United States." International Journal of Wildland Fire 892-899.

[2] National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. n.d. Climate at a Glance.

[3] Applied Climate Science Lab, University of California Merced. n.d. Climate Toolbox - Climate Mapper.

[4] USGCRP. 2017. Climate Science Special Report: Fourth National Climate Assessment, Volume 1. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Global Change Research Program.

[5] Friedman, J M, and E R Griffin. 2017. Management of plains cottonwood at Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota. Fort Collins, CO: National Park Service.

[6] Miller Hesed, C.D., Yocum, H.M., Rangwala, I., Symstad, A.J., Martin, J.M., Ellison, K., Wood, D.J. A., Ahlering, M., Chase, K.J., Crausbay, et al., 2023, Synthesis of climate and ecological science to support grassland management priorities in the North Central Region: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2023–1036, 21 p.,

[7] Valseth, K.J., 2021, Vulnerability assessment in and near Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Map 3479, pamphlet 9 p., 1 sheet,

[8] Peischl, J., Karion, A., Sweeney, C., Kort, E. A., Smith, M. L., Brandt, A. R., Yeskoo, T., et al. 2016. "Quantifying atmospheric methane emissions from oil and natural gas production in the Bakken shale region of North Dakota." Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres 121, issue 10, pages 6101-6111.

[9] Environmental Protection Agency. n.d. Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator.

Last updated: November 28, 2023

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