Concerns about climate change are often in the news, but the ways in which expected changes in climate might affect U.S. national parks and forests receives relatively little media coverage. A conservation group called the Grand Canyon Trust has addressed that deficiency by prominently releasing the first-ever scientific plan regarding climate change in the region around Grand Canyon National Park and Kaibab National Forest. The plan examines the increased risk of drought, wildfire, and other climate-related concerns for the northern part of the canyon ecosystem.
The “North Rim Ranches Climate Change Adaptation Plan” developed by the Trust focuses on approximately 830,000 acres (3,360 square kilometers) of the canyon’s North Rim area—specifically public land on which the Trust holds livestock grazing permits. This land is managed by the North Kaibab Ranger District of the U.S. Forest Service and the Arizona Strip District of the Bureau of Land Management.
According to the authors of the plan, “Climate changes such as increased risks of prolonged drought and unnaturally severe wildfire present additional challenges to the balancing of conservation objectives with livestock management, as adverse livestock grazing practices can amplify impacts to the landscape.” The authors state that the purpose of their plan is to address “climate change concerns, action recommendations, and implementation opportunities for climate adaptation across the North Rim Ranches.”
Ed Grumbine, the North Rim Ranches overseer for the Trust, noted that the Southwestern United States is a “hotspot of projected change and current change.” He said, “…we realized that if we wanted to continue our operation and continue our conservation and ranching goals into the future, then we had to deal with climate.”
The plan has the following five primary objectives:
Objective 1: Assess the vulnerability of the landscape of the North Rim Ranches to climate change. This assessment includes making an inventory of water sources crucial for both wildlife and livestock.
Objective 2: Develop climate change scenarios related to conservation objectives. These scenarios will guide the development of actions designed to adapt to the expected changes.
Objective 3: Identify and prioritize actions designed to meet conservation objectives within each climate change scenario.
Objective 4: Develop monitoring plans with measurable indicators to evaluate and improve adaptation actions.
Objective 5: Build support for plan implementation through communication and collaboration with the public, government agencies, ranchers, and researchers.
The Trust’s plan makes numerous recommendations for dealing with the risks of forest fires, reduced water supplies, and changes in vegetation. As more data are collected throughout the plan’s implementation, additional management actions will be proposed and enacted.
The complete plan is available at: