Elements of success for climate adaptation planning: A National Park Service perspective
Department of the Interior and National Park Service (NPS) policies lay the foundation for climate adaptation planning in the agency, and existing climate change action plans and adaptation frameworks are beginning to translate policies into actions, but managers working in parks are still grappling with site-level implementation. The challenges are significant: (a) concepts and language are novel and not well understood; (b) the science is new and rapidly evolving, making it difficult for managers to stay current; (c) high uncertainty leads to management indecision, especially when intervention is needed; (d) there is little understanding of organizing frameworks to help managers make sense of the new science and new climate change tools; (e) climate change is considered critical, but not a near-term priority; (f) climate change operates over such broad spatial scales that we have to build organizational bridges to work across boundaries; and (g) climate change involves social complexity with fragmented stakeholder groups. We present an emerging response within the NPS for addressing these key adaptation challenges, developed and trialed through the NASA-NPS Landscape Climate Change Vulnerability Project and programs under NPS Natural Resource Stewardship and Science.
Key approaches we identified include: (a) helping train and educate managers to raise awareness of climate science and how to interpret and use the products; (b) building a community of practice by developing science products with managers at the table; (c) being transparent about uncertainty while embracing and accounting for it using tools such as scenario planning; (d) raising awareness of organizing frameworks to help managers make sense of the new science and new climate change tools; (e) creating products identified by managers as useful and important; (f) facilitating land managers ability to work across boundaries and at larger scales; and (g) developing an effective communications approach. We offer examples of how developing science-manager relationships can effectively translate the climate science into products and messages that are actionable and relevant to park managers invested in climate adaptation. While not a panacea for all protected areas, and recognizing that we are continually learning from our diverse park staff, partners and others on better ways to succeed, tell our stories and find more effective ways of conserving resources, we share the emerging NPS perspective to stimulate discussion, debate and – ultimately – help steward a collective way forward in climate adaptation planning.