Riley Morin

Degree Type

Honors Capstone Project

Date of Submission

Spring 5-1-2014

Capstone Advisor

Peter J. Wilcoxen, Associate Professor, Economics and Public Administration

Honors Reader

Robert M. Wilson, Associate Professor, Geography

Capstone Major


Capstone College


Audio/Visual Component


Capstone Prize Winner


Won Capstone Funding


Honors Categories

Social Sciences

Subject Categories

Economic History | Economics | Economic Theory | Other Economics


For over 140 years, Americans and have enjoyed their national parks. In the national parks, nature and history come together to form uniquely public as well as enormously valuable landscapes. Today, America’s national parks are in danger of undergoing serious changes. Climate change is going to alter the physical characteristics of the national parks. Many of the parks have changed before, but this change will be the most dramatic. In this report I examine the historical and current mission of the National Park Service. I also examine the past and current valuation of the national parks by the American people. I’m interested to learn if the National Park Service, under pressure from climate change, can fulfill what Americans currently value about the national parks. What I have discovered is that when the first national parks were created ecosystems were protected by accident. National parks were created for their dramatic landscapes, often containing rock and ice. Today, however, one of the major reasons American’s value their national parks is their ecosystems. Since the inception of the national parks in 1872 and the National Park Service in 1916, the men and women who have managed the parks have effectively managed ecosystems in the parks. Global climate change, however, will make the management of America’s ecosystems much harder. The National Park Service is not up to the task of continuing to be the sole manager of the ecosystems of the parks. The political borders that the National Park Service operates within do not bind the ecosystems in the national parks. Future policies must reflect the management of America’s ecosystems precisely because Americans value the ecosystems of the parks and those ecosystems are at stake. In order to preserve ecosystems, then, America ought to create a National Ecosystem Protection Service. The National Ecosystem Protection Service would be a broad, multilateral, scientific agency. It would be tasked with assessing what will happen to ecosystems under climate change and then working with landowners outside the national parks to encourage the longevity of American ecosystems

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.



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