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    National Parks, Corridors and Climate Change: A New Report

    Wolf The National Parks Conservation Association has released a 54-page report titled "Climate Change and National Park Wildlife: A survival guide for a warming world."

    The report stresses the importance of creating wildlife corridors within and between parks, as "climate change will cause some wildlife to move outside the parks' protected boundaries, while other species may move in. Because national parks, like all protected areas, are interconnected with surrounding landscapes, cooperation and coordination among all landowners - public and private - is essential to preserve functioning ecosystems and the wildlife they support."

    "National parks can play a key role in conserving wildlife across the landscape," the report states. "In some cases they provide natural corridors; in other cases new corridors will be needed to connect parks and other protected lands so that wildlife can move in response to climate change."

    [Photo: Joel Sartore - www.joelsartore.com]

    Writes Tom Kiernan, President of the National Parks Conservation Association, "Right now, no national plan exists to manage wildlife throughout their habitat, which often is a patchwork of lands managed by multiple federal agencies, states, tribes, municipalities, and private landholders.   

    "Wildlife need corridors that enable them to migrate between protected lands as climate change renders their current homes inhospitable. We also need to work harder to reduce air and water pollution that compound climate change stresses on wildlife. All of these elements must be put in place as soon as possible to safe- guard all living communities."

    Among other parks and animals, the report highlights Glacier Park and its wolverines. The animals, it states, have "a legendary reputation for toughness, resilience, and, some would say, cantankerousness."  (See Patagonia's essay by Doug Chadwick on a wolverine, M-3, who makes Glacier his base)

    In an excellent summary of the report in Montana's Missoulian, reporter Michael Jamison points out that wolverines require deep and long-lasting snows for denning, and rely on avalanches to kill and cache carrion. They also "could very possibly be erased from the landscape by climate change."

    Jamison reports that studies indicate one-third of the historic snowpack in wolverine habitat already has been lost to rising temperatures, and "without snow, these carnivores could quickly go extinct."  Glacier Parks's pika, showshoe hares and lynx are also at risk. 

    One suggestion in the Conservation Association's report is to help wolverines survive by maintaining healthy wolf populations in the western parks - wolves leave carrion behind and wolverines feed on the leftovers.  

    In addition, said Will Hammerquist, who works with the National Parks Conservation Association in Glacier National Park, the parks can help form hubs linked by wildlife corridors, allowing species such as wolverines to move north as climate pressures build.

    According to the report, "movement corridors and larger refugia where wolverines are protected could help these wild creatures to survive."

    The report also contains a five-step plan for national park visitors who want to slow the effects of climate change on park wildlife.

    "We have a window of opportunity right now," Hammerquist said, adding that Congress is currently deliberating on climate legislation. Senators Max Baucus (D-Montana) and  Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island) proposed earlier this week that the Senate's climate change bill must set aside revenue generated by cap-and-trade for national wildlife adaptation (view proposal).

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