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America's national parks face challenges

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While chronic underfunding of the NPS has caused an estimated $8 billion to $9 billion backlog of sorely needed maintenance in the parks, for many that threat has been overshadowed by a greater concern: climate change.

“How people are changing the climate is the greatest threat the parks have ever faced,” says Stephen Saunders, president of the Rocky Mountain Climate Change Organization and a former deputy assistant secretary of the Department of the Interior, which oversees the NPS. Low-lying park properties, such as Dry Tortugas off Key West, Fla., and Ellis Island in New York Harbor, could disappear underwater later this century as sea levels rise an expected 2.5 to 4 feet. Large areas of the Everglades and Big Cypress National Preserve in south Florida could be inundated as well, he says.

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