July 25, 2006

Global warming puts 12 US parks at risk: report

By Deborah Zabarenko

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Global warming puts 12 of the most
famous U.S. national parks at risk, environmentalists said on
Tuesday, conjuring up visions of Glacier National Park without
glaciers and Yellowstone Park without grizzly bears.

All 12 parks are located in the American West, where
temperatures have risen twice as fast as in the rest of the
United States over the last 50 years, said Theo Spencer of the
Natural Resources Defense Council.

"Rising temperatures, drought, wildfires and diminished
snowfalls endanger wildlife and threaten hiking, fishing and
other recreational activities" in the parks, Spencer said in a
telephone news conference. "Imagine Glacier Park without
glaciers or Yellowstone without any grizzly bears."

Most climate scientists believe Earth's surface temperature
has risen over the last century or more, spurred by human
activities that produce greenhouse gases, which trap heat like
the glass walls of a greenhouse. Some skeptics doubt that
people affect global climate change and say temperature
fluctuations have occurred throughout history.

The report released by the council and the Rocky Mountain
Climate Organization stressed the connection between global
warming and environmental damage at the parks, including the
loss of specific wildlife, and called on the U.S. government to
cut greenhouse gas emissions significantly in 10 years.

The report blamed global warming for threatening grizzly
bears, an iconic species in Yellowstone Park.


The bears feed on whitebark pine seeds, but global warming
has encouraged beetles to infest whitebark trees that grow at
high altitudes where grizzlies feed; cold weather would
normally kill the beetles but this has not occurred in recent
years, said Janet Barwick of the council's Wild Bears Project.

This in turn forces the bears to move to lower altitudes to
look for food to fatten up for the winter, making them more
likely to move into areas where there are people and that leads
to an increase in grizzly mortality, Barwick said.

Glaciers and ice caves have melted in North Cascades and
Mt. Rainier parks, and mountaintops in Western parks could be
snow-free in summer within decades, said Stephen Saunders of
the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization. He said all glaciers
in Glacier National Park could be gone within 25 years.

The report said the parks at greatest risk are:

- Bandelier National Monument, New Mexico;

- Death Valley National Park, California;

- Glacier National Park, Montana;

- Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah and Arizona;

- Golden Gate National Recreation Area, California;

- Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming;

- Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado;

- Mount Rainier National Park, Washington state;

- North Cascades National Park, Washington state;

- Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado;

- Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho;

- Yosemite National Park, California.