Climate Change and Colorado's National Parks
On Monday, Senator Mark Udall and Senator John McCain visited Rocky Mountain National Park and held a field hearing of the Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks to discuss the impacts of climate change on Colorado's parks. From bark beetle infestations to changes to wildlife habitat, Rocky Mountain National Park alone has undergone changes due in part to rising temperatures. The Senators discussed what climate change means for national parks, and how they are adapting to and mitigating the impacts.
Good afternoon. The purpose of this afternoon's hearing of the Senate Subcommittee on National Parks is to consider climate change impacts on national parks in Colorado and related management activities. As Chairman of the subcommittee, I understand that the impacts of climate change are a major management challenge for the National Park Service. I wanted to hold a hearing in Colorado because these impacts are an issue of particular importance not only for Rocky Mountain National Park and our other national parks and forests, but they also reflect an emerging area of concern for the agricultural community, for our larger economy and even pose global implications for our national security.
We will not address the full scope of global climate change at this hearing but we will endeavor to look at the issue through the unique lens of our National Parks.
Our national parks are national treasures. They embody the diverse beauty of the American landscape, as well as our history and culture as a people. We must do all that we can to preserve and protect them while also continuing to provide public access and enjoyment to future generations of Americans. There are a number of important issues facing our nation's parks, from budget shortfalls to increased use and recreational pressures. And they are also not immune from the larger issues facing our nation and the globe.
To a large degree, our nation's parks are the "canary in the coal mine" when it comes to on-the-ground effects of a warming climate. And that is especially true for western parks and the park right down the street from this hearing room-Rocky Mountain National Park. These impacts are real, significant and can have lasting effects on these resources and our ability to protect them.
Today's hearing is focused on what is happening in parks due to climate change, how these impacts are being assessed and monitored, how these impacts may be affecting visitor experiences, and some thoughts on what more we can do for the parks directly to help address these impacts.
A wiser person than me described the challenge with these words:
"The threat to our world comes not only from tyrants and their tanks. It can be more insidious though less visible. The danger of global warming is as yet unseen, but real enough for us to make changes and sacrifices, so that we do not live at the expense of future generations.
Our ability to come together to stop or limit damage to the world's environment will be perhaps the greatest test of how far we can act as a world community. No one should under-estimate the imagination that will be required, nor the scientific effort, nor the unprecedented co-operation we shall have to show. We shall need statesmanship of a rare order. It's because we know that that we are here today."
That was Margaret Thatcher speaking in 1990. Today, nearly two decades later, her words are still relevant and even more pressing. She was right about the challenge and right about the need for statesmanship. And I am fortunate today to be joined by a leader in the U.S. Senate who has shown statesmanship and courage on this issue, and so many other issues...Senator John McCain.
Senator John McCain and I took a brief tour of Rocky Mountain National Park this morning to look at some places where climate change impacts are occurring in this park. Unfortunately, the sorts of things we saw-such as trees killed by a bark beetle epidemic that has been exacerbated by a warming climate-are not limited to this park but are being felt throughout the National Park system. I am looking forward to learning about these impacts and the challenges we face in mitigating and confronting them. I intend to work with my colleagues on this Committee and in the Senate and Congress to respond to the needs and challenges presented by climate change and the myriad of other issues affecting our parks.
I would like to thank Mayor Pinkham and the Estes Park Town Board for hosting us today, as well as Jackie Williamson-the Town Clerk-for all of her help getting us setup here today.
I am very pleased to be joined by Senator McCain today, and would like to turn to him to make some opening remarks.
Before we hear from our panel of experts, I would like to address a few administrative issues. This is a formal Subcommittee hearing; it is not a town hall meeting. As such, we will take testimony from select witnesses and will not be taking public comments or questions. However, anyone wishing to submit written testimony for the hearing record may do so by sending it to the Subcommittee in Washington or to one of my offices here in Colorado.
We will keep the hearing record open for two weeks following today's hearing.
Now, we are very fortunate to have a distinguished panel of witnesses testifying this afternoon, and I will introduce them in just a minute. So that we can have enough time for questions and discussion, I'd ask each witness to please summarize your written testimony-your full written statement will be made a part of the official Committee hearing record.