Officials at national parks across the U.S. are trying to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by cleaning up their own operations, with the help of federal stimulus dollars, according to Associated Press.
“We know we have to green our own house,” said Sonya Capek, the Pacific West region’s environmental program coordinator. “It’s part of our mission to protect and preserve the resources.”
The National Park Service and the Environmental Protection Agency have started the Climate Friendly Parks network program to help parks address climate change. Parks must measure their amounts of emissions, come up with plans to curb them and educate the public on what they can do to help.
Seventeen parks, including the Everglades in Florida and Fire Island National Seashore in New York, have already created plans. Sixty parks are developing their own plans.
National parks, like other federal agencies, have already been under orders to reduce energy and gasoline use. But the Obama administration has pushed greening parts of government further, including replacing government fleets with more fuel-efficient cars and trucks.
Parks are turning down thermostats and sealing windows, providing loaner bikes to employees and installing food composting and recycling bins.
One recent morning at Mount Rainier, workers climbed atop the park’s emergency operations center and installed 48 solar panels to provide energy to the building. They have also added dual-flush toilets that reduce water use and use electric vehicles to pick up trash at campgrounds.
“The goal is really to knock (down) our carbon footprint,” said Jim Fuller, the park’s energy coordinator.
Each year, Mount Rainier creates greenhouse gas emissions equal to about 1,100 households. Visitors to Mount Rainier account for two-thirds of the 12,170 metric tons the park emits each year, mostly in driving to the park and inside it.
Federal stimulus dollars are giving national parks a boost in their efforts. Of $750 million for national parks, there’s stimulus money for energy-efficient windows at Alabama’s Russell Cave, wind turbines at Alaska’s Gates of the Arctic and solar panels at Georgia’s Cumberland Island.
Visitors to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park may soon hop on hydrogen-powered shuttles, while those visiting parts of Golden Gate National Recreation Area will find mostly organic food grown within 30 miles rather than shipped from across the country. Rocky Mountain National Park runs shuttles so backpackers don’t have to drive to trailheads. Other parks such as Wisconsin’s Apostle Islands National Lakeshore are asking visitors to do their part with tours, education programs and public awareness campaigns.
“We’re basically trying, without hitting people over the head, to say this is an issue,” said Bob Krumenaker, Apostle Islands’ superintendent.
Rainier acting superintendent Randy King said the park doesn’t want to discourage visitors. “It’s very important that people enjoy the parks and make a personal connection.” So the park is looking in-house first to conserve where it can.
“We need to set a good example and do what we can,” he said.
Roger Scott, from Southfield, Mich., said he’s noticed solar panels at several national parks he visited since retiring last year.
“Parks get used an awful lot and they’re going to get used even more,” he said, adding that now is a good time to start thinking about human impact to the parks.
It’s unclear whether parks can realistically become carbon neutral through conservation alone or without buying offsets, but park officials say the expectation for now is get as close as possible.
“It’s OK to have a difficult goal,” King said. “It’s important that we take it seriously.”
The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) apparently has softened its opposition to more stringent vehicle mileage standards proposed Tuesday by President Obama that would mandate 39 mpg for cars and 30 mpg for light trucks by 2016.
In the past, RVIA has adamantly been against increasing CAFE standards set by the National Highway Safety Transportation Administration (NHTSA) — as have North American auto manufacturers.
In a press release today (May 21), however, RVIA simply urged Congress and the Obama administration to take into consideration the need the RV industry has for tow vehicles.
Facing the fact that the auto industry is apparently accepting of standards laid out by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and endorsed by the president, RV makers appear to be lining up behind the program this time — with a caveat.
RVIA spokesmen were unavailable for comment beyond the release by RVIA President Richard Coon, the text of which is as follows:
RVIA is urging the Administration, Congress, the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to strongly consider the ongoing need for adequately powered tow vehicles after President Obama’s proposal on Tuesday to cut new vehicle carbon emissions and raise mileage standards.
Under the proposed plan, both cars and light trucks would need to together average 35.5 miles per gallon (mpg) by 2016 with car standards rising from the current 27.5 mpg to 39 mpg and light trucks increasing to 30 mpg from 24 mpg.
A vehicle’s towing capability is a critical issue for the owners of towable products, and it is imperative that any new rules moving forward give consideration to towing attributes that will enable vehicle manufacturers to meet the need and demand for vehicles with heavy towing capability. In order to tow and stop safely, tow vehicles must have certain equipment, including a stronger transmission, a larger radiator to cool the transmission, heavy duty shock absorbers, heavy duty springs, larger tires and larger brakes. While these components add weight, they also provide safety, durability and capacity for towing.
This is a critical issue for the RV industry with towable units now making up approximately 85% of the RV market.
The goals of this newly proposed program need to be fairly balanced with the need for adequately powered and safe tow vehicles for consumers and the potential consequences on a great many industries – including the RV industry.
As an industry whose customers enjoy recreating in the Great Outdoors, we support conservation efforts aimed at preserving the quality of the environment, but serious review and discussion is needed as this proposal moves forward.