ROCKY MOUNTAIN CLIMATE ORGANIZATION
NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL
************************* Report: Five Great Lakes national parks already suffering from climate disruption
Five major parks In or near Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin highlighted; significant and growing impact on beaches, wildlife, tourism revenue and jobs detailed
CHICAGO, IL (July 13, 2011) - Five major Great Lakes national parks are already feeling the impact of climate change in the forms of rising temperatures, decreased winter ice, eroding shorelines, spreading disease, and crowding out of key wildlife and plant life, according to a major new report issued today by the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization (RMCO) and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
Available online, the new RMCO/NRDC report focuses on the five largest parks on the Great Lakes: Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore (NL) in Indiana (near Chicago); Sleeping Bear Dunes NL, Pictured Rocks NL, and Isle Royale National Park (NP) in Michigan (just offshore from Minnesota); and Apostle Islands NL in Wisconsin.
As Great Lakes National Parks in Peril: The Threats of Climate Disruption notes, the threats of climate disruption to the national parks in the Great Lakes are also threats to the Great Lakes regional economy.
“The five parks featured in this report together drew more than four million visitors in 2010. Visitor spending in 2009 totaled more than $200 million and supported nearly 3,000 jobs. These economic benefits are at risk as a changing climate threatens the special resources that draw vacationing families and others to these parks.”
The report documents the following major impacts:
- Higher temperatures. Summers in Indiana Dunes could become as hot by late in this century (2070- 2099) as summers in Gainesville, Florida, have been in recent history (1971-2000). Summers in Sleeping Bear Dunes could become as hot as those in Lexington, Kentucky, recently have been - Less winter ice. Higher air and water temperatures already are reducing winter ice cover on the Great Lakes, a trend expected to accelerate. Lake Michigan may have some winters with no ice cover in as soon as 10 years, and Lake Superior may typically be ice-free in about three decades
- Major erosion of shoreline and related features. With less ice and more open waters, the lakes will have more waves in winter than before, especially during strong storms, increasing erosion threats to park shorelines and structures. The park staff at Sleeping Bear Dunes has expressed concern that the park’s signature perched dunes, atop towering bluffs above the shorelines, could be vulnerable to accelerated loss from increased erosion, resulting from a loss of winter ice and snow cover that keeps the dunes’ sand from blowing away and from more waves undercutting the bluffs on which the dunes perch
- Loss of wildlife. In Isle Royale, the moose population has declined, as have the numbers of the wolves that depend on them as prey. Other park mammals at risk as the climate changes include lynx and martens. Birds at risk of being eliminated from the parks include common loons and ruffed grouse, iconic birds of the Great Lakes and the North Woods.
Stephen Saunders, president, Rocky Mountain Climate Organization (RMCO) and former deputy assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior overseeing the National Park Service, said: “Human disruption of the climate is the greatest threat ever to America’s national parks. This report details the particular threats that a changed climate poses to our Great Lakes national parks - those within the lakes or on their shores.”
Dale Engquist, former superintendent, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, and president, Chicago Wilderness Trust, said: “Change in nature is natural. But the changes we face with the accelerated rate of global climate change that our human activities have caused don’t allow millennia or even centuries for adaption; the changes now will take place in only decades without time for nature to adapt.”
Thom Cmar, staff attorney, Chicago Office, Natural Resources Defense Council, said: “We need to head off climate change quickly to protect our Great Lakes parks, the iconic landscapes and wildlife that live in them, and our own communities. Climate action is economic action in the Great Lakes. To protect the jobs and massive revenue that come out of these parks, Congress needs to either act on climate or get out of the way and let the EPA do its job to limit carbon pollution.”
Larry J. MacDonald, mayor, Bayfield, Wisconsin, said: “The City of Bayfield, as the gateway community to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, faces the financial reality that climate change will bring tremendous economic challenges to our National Lakeshore-based local tourism economy. We need to continue to respect and protect Lake Superior. When the lake is healthy, our community and the Apostle Islands will continue to prosper.”
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