96% of National Parks, Including Sleeping Bear Dunes, Impacted by Significant Air Pollution

Every year, millions of visitors look to the country’s national parks for beautiful views and hikes and some fresh air.

But a new report from the National Parks Conservation Association says it isn’t as fresh as you’d think.

Data from 417 national parks shows 96% have significant air pollution issues, and struggle with threats like climate change, haziness and poor air quality.

  • 85% have air that is unhealthy to breathe at times
  • 88% have air pollution that is damaging to native species and habitat
  • 89% suffer from haze pollution
  • 80% of parks are significantly affected or threatened by climate change

The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is not immune to air pollution, although most of it does not originate on site.

“The ozone comes up on prevailing winds from the southwest from the industrial sides of Chicago and Milwaukee, places like that,” said Sleeping Bear Dunes deputy superintendent Tom Ulrich. “It’s a health concern on the highest days which usually happen on hot, sunny days [with] high pressure.”

The park also struggles with haziness issues. The report says that haziness can affect up to 90 miles of visibility and vista.

“On any given day, you’re still likely to have a fabulous view here, the key is you don’t know when it could be even a little more fabulous if the pollution particulates weren’t in the air,” said Ulrich.

Visitors at Sleeping Bear Dunes will be safe for the most part, but four parks cited in the report have regularly dangerous air quality that is harmful for visitors to breathe.

Sequoia, Kings Canyon, Joshua Tree National Parks and Mojave National Preserve have dangerously polluted air for more than two months a year, mostly during the summertime.

The pollution comes from agricultural industries in the San Joaquin Valley.

To read the full report, visit https://www.npca.org/reports/air-climate-report.