The National Parks of Lake Superior are making history by becoming the first in the nation to comprehensively decarbonize, eliminating carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere.
Within the next four years, the five national parks along the Lake Superior shoreline will completely decarbonize their buildings and vehicles, setting a high standard for climate action, according to a report by MLive.
Tom Irvine, executive director of the nonprofit National Parks of Lake Superior Foundation, said, “If you don’t set an ambitious game plan for something like this, then it just doesn’t get done. Part of our interests and part of our private funding interest is we’ve got to get on it, and we got to get on it now.”
The plans to decarbonize were already in motion when federal infrastructure and inflation reduction funds became available. The effort to bring these parks completely off fossil fuels is expected to serve as a blueprint for other national parks to follow.
U.S. Senator Tina Smith of Minnesota praised the move, calling it “important leadership” from the Midwest. She said the parks could be a model for the nation on how climate action can be incorporated into national parks.
The five Lake Superior parks are located in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, and they are committed to making this a top priority.
A recent engineering study estimated that $15 million would be needed for the transition to clean energy solutions, including solar energy, batteries, heat pumps, and electric vehicles.
The funding will come from the National Park Service budget and private donations through the five-park foundation.
One of the biggest challenges of the decarbonization plan is at Isle Royale National Park, which is located in an isolated area of Lake Superior and currently operates on diesel generators.
Superintendent Denice Swanke of Isle Royale confirms that mitigating climate-related vulnerabilities in parks is a priority for the National Park Service.
Improvements are also underway at the other four parks, including retrofitting buildings for heat pump water heaters and LED lighting and replacing gas or diesel vehicles with electric vehicles.
Some of the parks will also negotiate to buy renewable energy from utilities instead of fossil fuel-generated power.
This comprehensive decarbonization effort by the National Parks of Lake Superior is a step towards a cleaner, greener future and sets a positive example for other national parks to follow.