1. Glacier National Park
Yes, that’s its name, but by 2030, there may be no more glaciers in this beautiful park.
Already, some of the most famous glaciers in the Montana park have shrunk by more than half, and only 17% of the glaciers found there in 1850 remain today (26 of 150). While the valleys below have warmed about 2 degrees in the last century, the peaks of Glacier National Park have warmed about 2 degrees every year for 15 years.
The visitor center at Glacier has two dramatic photos, side-by-side: Glacier in the 1930′s and Glacier now. If you have ever doubted the existence of global warming, this will change your mind.
2. Lake Clark
This is one of the least-visited national parks, in remote Alaska and is staggeringly beautiful. And, unfortunately, threatened.
A new gold rush has inspired 1,000 square miles’ worth of gold claims since 2003 — directly adjacent to Lake Clark National Park, and near to Katmai National Park, in the salmon-rich headwaters of Bristol Bay, according to the National Parks Conservation Association.
Late in 2008, the Bush Administration opened another 1 million acres of nearby federal lands to mining. Most threatening is the Pebble Mine, which is even being opposed by many jewelry makers because it poses such an environmental threat.
You’d better visit soon if you have ever craved an experience in untouched Arctic nature, on the Pacific ring of fire.
Photo Credit: carlandkalah
3. Joshua Tree
This California park might need a new name before too long because Joshua Tree National Park is losing its Joshua trees.
Michael Cipra, a program manager for the National Parks Conservation Association, laid out the bad news for Congress: “As a result of climate change, there may no longer be Joshua trees in Joshua Tree National Park,” Cipra testified. “This plant is not just an iconic image on a postcard — it is critical to the health of this desert ecosystem. Ecologists refer to the Joshua tree as a ‘foundation species’ — a plant that serves as living habitat for a whole range of animals, providing food and shelter critical to the survival of everything from great horned owls, which nest in the tree tops, to night lizards, North America’s smallest lizards, which give live birth to their young beneath decaying bark of the Joshua tree.”
As a climber who has spent many hours in this dramatically beautiful park, this news makes me sad.
Photo Credit: rysloan
I have never visited this national park, but all I read tells me that it is amazingly striking, and so close to downtown Miami. But since it is these coral reefs that attract many visitors, that attraction could disappear.
Coral reefs around the world are endangered by a variety of threats — pollution runoff from nearby land, increasingly warm water, bleaching, overfishing, ocean acidification and even over-use by tourists. In Biscayne National Park
(and Virgin Island National Park) coral reefs are most threatened by increased water temperatures and the spread of disease. In about 20 years, coral cover in the park has decreased by half, and the diversity of species living there declined as much as 29%.
Photo Credit: The Window Seat
5. The Great Smoky Mountains
The Great Smoky Mountains, which straddle the border between North Carolina and Tennessee, are the most visited of the national parks, but that could change as a result of all the smoke and smog drifting into the park. Smokestacks and tailpipes produce pollution that is causing a problem in the park.
The Great Smoky Mountains take their name from a fine blue mist visible rising from valleys, but nowadays you are more likely to see a white haze of smog. Federal officials are working to decrease smog overall, and particularly where it obscures the view from national parks. Still, with increasing car traffic, vehicles have been contributing more, not less, to the problem.
Photo Credit: Chip Bennett