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Parks in Great Lakes region hurt by climate change, report says

Climate change is beginning to significantly damage the ecosystems of national parks in or near Wisconsin and throughout the Great Lakes region, according to a report to be released Wednesday.

Climate change is beginning to significantly damage the ecosystems of national parks in or near Wisconsin and throughout the Great Lakes region, according to a report to be released Wednesday.

"The report documents that human-caused climate change is the greatest threat to the Great Lakes national parks," said Stephen Saunders, president of the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization, which sponsored the report with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

"We document the range of ways in which the things that make these such special places for the people who love them are threatened by the way we are changing the climate," Saunders said.

The report focuses on the five largest parks on the Great Lakes: Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in Wisconsin; Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore in Indiana; and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and Isle Royale National Park in Michigan.

Increased temperatures resulting from a changing climate could have negative impacts along the shores of the Great Lakes, according to the report, "Great Lakes National Parks in Peril: The Threats of Climate Disruption."

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The report details the current and potential impact on beaches, wildlife, tourism revenue and jobs. It also discusses actions that can be taken in specific parks and on a national level to combat climate change.

"It is an issue not just for ecosystems but for the economy in the region," said Saunders, former deputy assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior overseeing the National Park Service.

The parks featured in the report are visited by more than 4 million people a year and their spending contributes to and sustains more than 3,000 jobs, he said.

There is a likelihood of lower lake levels and disappearing winter ice cover, according to the report.

These changes could bring a host of problems, including increased erosion, which, at Indiana Dunes, could wipe away some of the park's famous sand dunes.

Changing temperatures could also bring massive changes to biodiversity in the parks, with possible losses of wildlife.

Climate projections in the report show how much higher year-round and summer temperatures would be in the parks.

"If we don't limit emissions, these parks are going to get so hot in the summer that they will really lose their current character and going to them could be a lot more like beaches and parks in the deep South, not in the Midwest," Saunders said.

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To see more of The Wisconsin State Journal, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.wisconsinstatejournal.com .

Copyright (c) 2011, The Wisconsin State Journal/Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

Related Topics: ENVIRONMENTGREAT LAKES
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