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As a social entrepreneur, I am dedicated to finding innovative solutions for greening business. As a passionate supporter of National Parks and public lands, I work toward protecting these special places from the impacts of climate change and pollution.


Join me on this site as I report from Yellowstone on the threats climate change poses toward our beloved national parks, and how Yellowstone and other parks are making a difference in sustainability.

"If we continue to increase our emissions of heat-trapping gases, a disrupted climate will cause the greatest damage to our national parks ever."
Stephen Saunders

"A climate disrupted by human activities poses such sweeping threats to the
scenery, natural and cultural resources, and wildlife of the West’s national parks that it
dwarfs all previous risks to these American treasures."
From NRDC Losing Ground Report

"Business is the only mechanism on the planet today powerful enough to produce the changes necessary to reverse global environmental and social degradation."
Paul Hawken
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01/12/11: "The End of the Wild," Emma Marris, Nature

01/06/11: Climate change threatens Sierra, delta, group says," Kelly Zito, San Francisco Chronicle

01/05/11"Environmentalists pick Snake Basin, Yellowstone among most threatened habitats by climate change," Rocky Barker, Idaho Statesman

12/31/10"Yellowstone Grizzlies and the Betrayal of the Public Trust," Louisa Wilcox, NRDC Switchboard

12/26/10: "How a Tiny Beetle Could Decimate Yellowstone," Elizabeth Shogren, NPR

12/21/10: "Once upon a time, whitebark pine . . ." Matt Skoglund, NRDC Switchboard

12/21/10: "Climate Change's threat to the wolverine," Rebecca Waters, High Country News

12/08/10: "Silence of the Pikas, Part II," Wendee Holtcamp, Adventures in Climate Change and Bioscience

12/08/10: "Climate Change Response Strategy Released by NPS Alaska," Alaska Business Monthly

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  • Last Chance: Preserving Life on Earth (Speaker's Corner)
    Last Chance: Preserving Life on Earth (Speaker's Corner)
    by Larry J. Schweiger
  • Heatstroke: Nature in an Age of Global Warming
    Heatstroke: Nature in an Age of Global Warming
    by Anthony D. Barnosky
  • Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet
    Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet
    by Bill McKibben
  • Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change
    Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change
    by Elizabeth Kolbert
  • Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity
    Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity
    by James Hansen
  • Climate Change: Simple Things You Can Do to Make a Difference (Chelsea Green Guides)
    Climate Change: Simple Things You Can Do to Make a Difference (Chelsea Green Guides)
    by Jon Clift, Amanda Cuthbert
  • Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis
    Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis
    by Al Gore
  • The Rough Guide to Climate Change, 2nd Edition
    The Rough Guide to Climate Change, 2nd Edition
    by Robert Henson


Toyota invests in Yellowstone’s future with the Yellowstone Park Foundation 

Toyota donated a million dollars to the construction of the new Old Faithful Visitor Education Center (Photo: Beth Pratt) When eager park visitors gather roadside to admire a grizzly bear or a bison herd in Yellowstone, a traffic jam often ensues. When park rangers arrive on scene to help clear the jam, they don’t drive the usual generic law enforcement sedan. Instead they arrive in an energy-efficient hybrid vehicle, decorated with images of wildlife and fun animal facts—and donated by Toyota Motor Sales, USA., Inc.

“For us, there is a real benefit of being able to touch the millions of people that come to Yellowstone National Park each year with our sustainable vehicles. It’s great to know that we are making a difference for both the park and the environment,” says Mary Nickerson, National Manager of Advance Technology Vehicles for Toyota.

The donation of the hybrid vehicles is just one of the many investments that Toyota is making in Yellowstone’s future through a partnership with the Yellowstone Park Foundation, the park’s official fundraising entity.

Toyota’s commitment to protecting Yellowstone has been ongoing says Karen Bates Kress, President of the Foundation: “Toyota has been a steadfast partner to the Yellowstone Park Foundation for several years. It all started with the donation of hybrid vehicles, but their support has expanded to be so much more, including a major investment in education programs for tomorrow’s park stewards. Their generosity not only made the Old Faithful Visitor Education Center possible, but also helped us make the building a model of eco-friendly design and function.”

Last summer, Toyota’s President & COO James E. Lentz traveled to Yellowstone to attend the special dedication ceremony for the Old Faithful Education Center. Toyota funded a million dollar grant for the construction of the center and also provided the impetus and resources that enabled the project to reach a higher level of LEED certification than originally planned. As Lentz explains, “LEED is part of our company’s environmental philosophy. All of our new building planning involves LEED. It doesn’t make business sense today to invest in facilities if they are not LEED certified.”

More importantly for Lentz, the center also creates opportunities to develop future environmental leaders and protectors of Yellowstone. “The new center is phenomenal. And what I like most is how it’s getting young people more excited about the environment, and making them better stewards as well.”

To the goal of education and leadership development, Toyota has also made a nearly million-dollar donation to the Foundation to support the development of interpretive programs in Yellowstone. This funding allows initiatives to continue through 2012. The car company is also lending its expertise in sustainability to the park to help Yellowstone develop a more comprehensive environmental plan for the future.

All of these efforts are adding up to a more sustainable future for Yellowstone. And Nickerson affirms that her company will continue with its commitment to preserve the world's first national park.  “When it comes to the environment, every little bit counts. We are working with the Park to show visitors and employees what they can do to help protect the environment.”


Climate change is threatening some of the best-protected places on the planet

The Sierra Nevada and Yosemite are named in a new report as being at risk from climate change (Photo by Beth Pratt)America’s national parks are the best protected places on the planet, yet according to a new report released by the Endangered Species Coalition, even these environmental sanctuaries are at risk from climate change.

Yosemite and Yellowstone are just two of the national parks included in the ten ecosystems identified as hotspots for threatened and endangered species in "It's Getting Hot Out There: Top 10 Places to Save for Endangered Species in a Warming World." “Climate change is no longer a distant threat on the horizon,” said Leda Huta, executive director of the Endangered Species Coalition. “It has arrived and is threatening ecosystems that we all depend upon, and our endangered species are particularly vulnerable. If we are serious about saving endangered species from global warming, then these are the places to start.”

The report considered the areas that most need our immediate attention for protection by posing the question “What do we save?” Recognizing the monumental and near impossible task of prioritizing preservation efforts in light of the widespread threats of climate change, the authors focused on habitats that possess a high concentration of endangered species to determine the ten areas most at risk.

California’s Sierra Nevada mountain range is home to three national parks: Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon. Global warming, along with pollution, invasive species, combined with population growth and land development in adjacent areas, have significantly stressed the parks. Warming temperatures—and the resulting decreased snowpack and seasonal drought—have already challenged the native Yellow-legged frogs, Yosemite toad, alpine-dwelling pika, and bighorn sheep.

In Yellowstone National Park—housed within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, an area stretching over 28,000 square miles—rising temperatures have contributed to the widespread death of the whitebark pine tree, which provides a vital food source for the grizzly bear and other animals. According to the report, 82 percent of the whitebark pine forests in the Yellowstone ecosystem showed either high or medium mortality. The outlook for the tree, along with the grizzly bear and other creatures that depend upon it, appears grim: “Based on this study and current changes, experts predict that whitebark pine will be functionally extinct in the ecosystem—failing to provide food, shelter and hydrological functions—in five to seven years.”

The report also underscores the need for immediate action on behalf of these threatened areas. “Endangered species don't have the luxury of waiting for political leaders to act to slow the pace of climate change,” said Huta. “We certainly need to reduce global warming pollution, but we also need to act now to protect some of the most important ecosystems for imperiled wildlife for whom climate change may mean extinction.”

List of top 10 ecosystems to save for endangered species featured in the report:

1. The Arctic Sea Ice, home to the polar bear, Pacific walrus and at least 6 species of seal.

2. Shallow Water Coral Reefs, home to the critically endangered elkhorn and staghorn coral.

3. The Hawaiian Islands, home to more than a dozen imperiled birds and 319 threatened and endangered plants.

4. Southwest Deserts, home to numerous imperiled plants, fish, and mammals.

5. The San Francisco Bay-Delta, home to the imperiled Pacific salmon, Swainson’s hawk, tiger salamander and Delta smelt.

6. California Sierra Mountains, home to 30 native species of amphibian, including the Yellow-legged frog.

7. The Snake River Basin, home to four imperiled runs of salmon and steelhead.

8. Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, home to the imperiled Whitebark pine, an important food source for animals, including the threatened Grizzly bear.

9. The Gulf Coast’s flatlands and wetlands, home to the Piping and Snowy plovers, Mississippi sandhill crane, and several species of sea turtles.

10. The Greater Everglades, home to 67 threatened and endangered species, including the manatee and the red cockcaded woodpecker.

Seven additional ecosystems were nominated but not selected for the Top 10. They nonetheless contain important habitat for imperiled species, and include: Glacier National Park, Jemez Mountains, Sagebrush steppe, U.S. West Coast, The Maine Woods, The Grasslands of the Great Plains, and the Southern Rocky Mountains.

The full report, which includes information on each ecosystem, as well as recommended conservation measures, is available online at or


National Park Service honors Yellowstone concessioner with environmental award 

Jonathan Jarvis, the Director of the National Park Service, has called climate change the greatest threat our national parks have ever faced. “Climate change challenges the very foundation of the national park system and our ability to leave America's natural and cultural heritage unimpaired for future generations.”

In Yellowstone National Park—one of the best-protected places on the planet—the impacts of climate change have already begun to threaten the environmental health of the region. Xanterra Parks and Resorts, the park concessioner, decided to take an innovative approach to help protect Yellowstone. In 2009, it launched the beginning of a comprehensive campaign called, “For Future Generations,” aimed at encouraging guests to be active stewards of Yellowstone and all national parks.

The campaign received recognition recently when Xanterra received a 2010 Environmental Achievement Award from the National Park Service. This award recognizes federal agencies and their contractors  – including concessioners – that have demonstrated exceptional achievements in the categories “Protection of ecosystems,” “Alternative energy use,” “Reduction of solid waste and petroleum use,” “Design of sustainable buildings” and “Climate-friendly innovations.”

The most prominent component of Xanterra’s environmental initiative is the park’s newest gift store – located in the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and called “For Future Generations: Yellowstone Gifts.” The store emphasizes environmental impact through a sustainability scoring system the company developed and believes is the first of its kind for a retail operation. The company held a grand opening celebration for the store in January of 2010 featuring Larry Schweiger, President and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation as the keynote speaker.

Other components of the campaign include an innovative educational display for guest rooms with a plush animal toy, an educational brochure and a website on being a green guest in national parks. For employees, the “For Future Generations” campaign extends to training and awareness programs as well.

Xanterra’s environmental program in Yellowstone, called Ecologix, is widespread. Last year the company diverted 73 percent of its solid waste from landfills into other areas such as recycling, reusing and composting. Over the past nine years Xanterra has reduced its overall energy use by 14 percent and its water usage by 25 percent. 

For more information on Xanterra’s environmental initiatives in Yellowstone, visit the company's For Future Generations website.


Scientists discuss Yellowstone’s big three: climate change, invasives, land use

The hunting patterns of wolves may be impacted by climate change in Yellowstone Photo: Beth Pratt“If you want to get proud about a butterfly species in Yellowstone, this is the one,” said Diane Debinski, a Professor at Iowa State University. She was referring to the dainty Hayden’s Ringlet, a butterfly found almost exclusively in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE).  Her research, however, did not bode well for the insect, as drier conditions in the region appear to be decreasing the butterfly’s habitat.

Debinski, along with hundreds of other scientists, researchers, and land managers, gathered inYellowstone National Park last week as part of the10th Biennial Scientific Conference. The goal of the conference, entitled “Questioning Yellowstone’s Future: Climate, Land Use, and Invasive Species,” was to foster synergies among current research and land management practices in order to find solutions for protecting the GYE against the three primary drivers of change.

And change is already rapidly occurring in the GYE, one of the largest intact temperate ecosystems on the planet. Peak runoff from snowmelt is happening 10-20 days earlier and the growing season in the GYE has increased by two weeks. Invasive species adds threats as well, such as the lake trout driving out Yellowstone’s native cutthroat trout or the Canada thistle marginalizing wetlands.  Additionally, human population in the GYE has grown by 61% from 1970 to 2000 and at the same time rural land under development has increased by 350%.

All of these changes have significant implications for the diverse flora and fauna of the region. Dr. Stephen Gray, Wyoming State Climatologist, warned: “What we think of as drought today could become the norm in the future.” Along with Hayden’s butterfly, a warmer and drier climate has consequences for a number of animal species in the GYE.  For example, Doug Smith, Yellowstone Wolf Project Leader, presented his research on winter wolf predation rates in Yellowstone and found that “big climatic patterns associated with snowfall are impacting the wolf kill rate.” The wolves in recent years have been switching from elk calves to bulls as a result of the bulls being in poorer condition in early winter because of drought. 

Other climate related findings included a possible disruption of hibernation patterns for bears, and a shift in the GYE to warm water fisheries. “Bears don’t pee for five months,” observed Professor Hank Harlow of the University of Wyoming. His research showed that the bear’s physiological strategy to conserve protein in hibernation through recycling urea could be disrupted by the animal being aroused from its den in warmer winters. Scott Christensen, the Climate Change Program Director for the Greater Yellowstone Coalition (and an avid angler), said native trout faces risks from decreased river flow and warmer water temperatures. “Climate change is already impacting native trout and will continue to do so in the foreseeable future.”

Dr. Bob Gresswell, from the Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center, addressed the severe threat the invasive lake trout poses to Yellowstone’s native cutthroat, and recalled the days when hundreds of thousands of visitors would gather at Fishing Bridge every year to watch the Yellowstone cutthroat spawn. “If you’ve been to Fishing Bridge lately, you are lucky to see any trout,” he lamented. Dr. Andrew Hansen from Montana State Universityproposed the choice of either loving the GYE to death or loving it to health in his keynote address. His research has shown that land use development in ecologically significant areas is already impacting the GYE, and in response to a predicted doubling of the population by 2040, he posed the question, “What is the population here that would serve the common interest?”

Despite all these challenges, the group remained hopeful that science could provide solutions to assist with protection of the GYE. In his panel on the area’s science agenda, Tom Olliff, with the Great Northern Landscape Conservation Cooperative, announced, “The good news is a lot of the work on these issues has been going on over the past year,” referring to two prior workshops held on the topic. Continuing this work—and finding viable solutions to the issues facing the GYE—is a vital next step.  Dr. Marcia McNutt, the Director of the USGS, provided attendees with the call to action: “Yellowstone like many of America’s great places is many things to many people but what it can never be is a failed scientific experiment.”

The 10th Biennial Scientific Conference, “Questioning Yellowstone’s Future: Climate Change, Land Use and Invasive Species,” was held in Yellowstone National Park on October 11-13, 2010.

Conference sponsors include the US Geological Survey, Biological Resources Discipline, Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center; US Fish and Wildlife Service, Mountain Prairie-Region, Office of Landscape Conservation; Montana State University;Yellowstone Association; University of Wyoming Ruckelshaus Institute; Rocky Mountains Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit; University of Wyoming-National Park Service Research Center;Greater Yellowstone Coordinating Committee(National Park Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, US Forest Service); Canon U.S.A., Inc., the Yellowstone Park Foundation, and the Greater Yellowstone Science Learning Center.


Yellowstone’s future to be discussed at 10th biennial scientific conference

The grizzly bear is one topic of discussion at the upcoming conference. Photo: Beth PrattA description of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) is usually filled with superlatives: at 28,000 square miles, the GYE contains one of the largest remaining intact temperate ecosystems on the planet, half of the earth’s hydrothermal features, the world’s first national park, and first international biosphere reserve. The area is also rich in biodiversity and supports an array of life, including the largest wild free-roaming bison herd in the United States.

This week, scientists, public land managers and others will gather in Yellowstone National Park to help shape the future of the GYE at the 10th Biennial Scientific Conference on the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Themed “Questioning Greater Yellowstone’s Future: Climate, Land Use and Invasive Species,” the event is cooperative effort of public land agencies, educational institutions, and non-profit organizations.

The conference’s goal is to examine the changes that climate, land use, and invasive species will bring to the GYE and consider strategies to manage these changes. Tom Olliff, NPS Landscape Coordinator and member of the conference planning committee, says the conference will provide a forum to continue the work that was started on these issues at a number of other gatherings over the past year. “My hope for the conference is to continue down the path of linking scientists and managers on these three landscape-scale issues.”

The 10th Biennial Scientific Conference on the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is being held October 11-13 at the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel in Yellowstone National Park. For more information visit the conference website.