National Park Service Sets Cultural Resources Climate Change Strategy

The National Park Service (NPS) today released its strategy that connects cultural resources and climate change. The Cultural Resources Climate Change Strategy (CRCC Strategy) is a landmark statement for the NPS and its historic preservation and climate change partners about how to anticipate, plan for, and respond to the effects of climate change on cultural resources.

Cultural resources are our record of the human experience. Collectively, these archeological sites, cultural landscapes, ethnographic resources, museum collections, and historic buildings and structures connect one generation to the next. The National Park Service is charged with conserving cultural resources so that they may be enjoyed by future generations. Climate change is adding challenges to this role, and will continue to affect cultural resources in diverse ways. At the same time, through the tangible and intangible qualities they hold, cultural resources are also part of the solution to climate change.

From the cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde to the steps of Ellis Island, the National Park System protects a suite of cultural resources—archeological sites, historic structures, museum collections—that provide valuable insight into the experiences of past generations. Additionally, parks support the traditions and lifeways of many indigenous cultures. The collective record preserved within parks of the National Park System and in the heritage managed by partners provides important evidence about how past generations fared during earlier instances of global change.

Today, rising sea levels and storm surge threaten some coastal fortifications, historic cemeteries, and prehistoric shell middens like those at Everglades National Park. In the American West, changing precipitation patterns have resulted in flooding in important landscapes and increased stress on historic buildings, including adobe structures at Tumacácori National Historical Park. And in higher latitudes, delicate tools of wood and bone are exposed to air and rapid decay as snow and ice fields melt in places like Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve.

Specifically, the CRCC Strategy connects cultural resources to the four pillars of climate change response identified in the NPS Climate Change Response Strategy released in 2010: science, adaptation, mitigation, and communication. Approaches and methods from other NPS guidance documents, tools and supporting information, and many park- and partner-based case studies are incorporated throughout.

 

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