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National Park Service

U.S. Department of the Interior
Natural Resource Stewardship and Science

Climate Change Scenario Planning for Central Alaska Parks

Yukon-Charley, Wrangell-St Elias, and Denali

Natural Resource Report NPS/XXXX/NRR—20XX/XXX

Canoe on Wonder Lake, National Park

Photo by NPS Photo

Climate Change Scenario Planning for Central Alaska Parks

Yukon-Charley, Wrangell-St Elias, and Denali

Natural Resource Report NPS/CCRP/NRR—2012/XXX

Robert Winfree, Bud Rice, John Morris, and Don Callaway (retired)

National Park Service Alaska Region

240 West 5th Avenue
Anchorage, AK 99501
Jeff Mow, Superintendent

Kenai Fjords National Park

P.O. Box 1727

Seward, Alaska 99664

Nancy Fresco and Lena Krutikov

Scenarios Network for Alaska & Arctic Planning

3352 College Road
Fairbanks, AK 99709-3707

March 2014

U.S. Department of the Interior

National Park Service

Natural Resource Stewardship and Science

Fort Collins, Colorado

The National Park Service Natural Resource Stewardship and Science office in Fort Collins, Colorado publishes a range of reports that address natural resource topics of interest and applicability to a broad audience in the National Park Service and others in natural resource management including scientists, conservation and environmental constituencies, and the public.

The Natural Resource Report Series is used to disseminate high-priority, current natural resource management information with managerial application. The series targets a general, diverse audience, and may contain national Park Service policy considerations or address sensitive issues of management applicability.

All manuscripts in the series receive the appropriate level of peer review to ensure that the information is scientifically credible, technically accurate, appropriately written for the intended audience, and designed and published in a professional manner.

This report received informal peer review by subject-matter experts who were not directly involved in the collection, analysis, or reporting of the data.

Views, statements, findings, conclusions, recommendations, and data in this report do not necessarily reflect views and policies of the National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior. Mention of trade names or commercial products does not constitute endorsement or recommendation for use by the U.S. Government.

This report is available from the NPS Alaska Regional Office Climate Change website ( and the Natural Resource Publications Management website (

Please cite this publication as:

Winfree, R., B. Rice, N. Fresco, L. Krutikov, J. Morris, D. Callaway, J. Mow, and N. Swanton, 2013. Climate Change Scenario Planning for Central Alaska Parks: Yukon-Charley, Wrangell-St Elias, and Denali. Natural Resource Report NPS/CCRP/NRR—2014/XXX. National Park Service, Fort Collins, Colorado.

NPS XXXXXX, March 2014



Appendix G: Climate Effects Table 60

Appendix H: Narratives 62



Executive Summary

Changing climatic conditions are rapidly impacting environmental, social, and economic conditions in and around National Park Service (NPS) areas in Alaska. With over 50 million acres of parklands to administer, Alaska park managers must better understand possible climate change trends in order to better manage Arctic, subarctic, and coastal ecosystems, as well as human uses of these areas. As such, NPS managers undertook an exploration of scenario planning as an innovative approach to science-based decision-making in the face of an uncertain future. Climate change scenarios are defined herein as plausible yet divergent futures based on the best available current knowledge of driving climate variables. These scenarios will help prepare NPS Alaska park managers for impending changes to make informed decisions for future outcomes.

This effort took off in 2010, when the NPS national and Alaska Regional offices released climate change response strategies for the National Park System and the Alaska Region, respectively (NPS 2010a, NPS 2010b). Scenario planning was identified in both strategies as a high priority for understanding potential climate change impacts to park resources, assets and operations. As a result, the NPS and University of Alaska’s Scenarios Network for Alaska and Arctic Planning (SNAP), a research group focused on climate change modeling and adaptation, embarked on a three-year collaborative project to help Alaska NPS managers, cooperating personnel, and key stakeholders consider potential consequences of climate change by developing plausible climate change scenarios for all NPS areas in Alaska. Final products include climate change scenario planning exercises, reports and other informational products for all NPS units in Alaska, with efforts organized around each of the four Inventory and Monitoring (I&M) networks.

The Climate Change Scenario Planning project began in August 2010, when the NPS Climate Change Response Program partnered with Jonathan Star of the Global Business Network (GBN) to initiate a series of scenario planning training workshops across the National Park System. A team of NPS Alaska Region and SNAP employees participated in the Alaska training workshop, learning how to develop scenarios based on nested frameworks of critical uncertainties, and fleshing out the beginnings of climate change scenarios for two pilot parks.

Building from that learning experience, Central Alaska was the fifth and last area in Alaska to be examined by the NPS through a scenarios workshop held April 16-18, 2012. This workshop was based on the framework introduced by the GBN, and led by a core team who had participated in at least one workshop beforehand. This April 2012 workshop focused on Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve (YUCH), Wrangell-St Elias National Park and Preserve (WRST), and Denali National Park and Preserve (DENA).

Participants included representatives from the parks in question, NPS staff from the Alaska Regional Office, SNAP personnel, and key individuals from other agencies, nongovernment organizations, and communities with a stake in this region. These individuals contributed a wide range of perspectives and expertise to the process and outcomes of the workshop.

Participants identified key issues facing the parks in this particular region of Alaska. Key issues included the many possible effects of increased forest fire and thawing permafrost. More specifically, future scenarios focused on potential impacts to ecosystems and to the humans who rely on them as fire, permafrost thaw, and general warming trends cause changes in vegetation, hydrology, wildlife, and subsistence species.

General findings and recommendations include: revisiting management policies; increasing invasive/introduced species management; introducing cooperative planning with tribes and other stakeholders; adjusting harvest regulations and seasons; increasing development of alternative energy sources in response to high fuel costs; and increasing interpretation and education efforts with respect to the changing landscape. In addition, better baseline data are needed for variables such as river flow, rare plants, and archaeological sites; and increased monitoring is needed for fire, glaciers, fisheries, and large mammals.
The climate change scenario planning process does not end with these workshops, reports, and presentations. Rather, this living process is intended to stimulate creative thinking to address changing but still undetermined future environmental and socio-political future conditions. The process should be refreshed periodically as important new information becomes available. In summary, park managers, park neighbors, and stakeholders can be best prepared for the future by using the best available scientific information and climate projections to create plausible, divergent, relevant, and challenging future climate change scenarios. These scenarios can help us all better prepare for uncertain future conditions in the face of a changing climate.

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