Are Public Lands America's Best Climate Change Defense?
ARAVAIPA CANYON, Ariz. — Willow and cottonwood trees, verdant with springtime foliage, draped over the shallow Aravaipa Creek in mid-February as if forsaking any notion of winter.
The blooming trees and abundant plant life, along with rare species of desert wildlife, make the Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness so biologically diverse and sensitive to human intrusion that it is one of a handful of wilderness areas in the country that have a daily cap on the number of visitors. This wild slice of the Sonoran Desert is also potentially a major bulwark against the effects of climate change, as are many of the protected public lands across the country.
Public lands protect forests that help store atmospheric carbon dioxide emissions while providing space for renewable energy development and protecting wildlife habitat and biodiversity, helping plants and animals adapt to climate change.