Climate Preserves: A New Tool to Fight the Climate Crisis

Apr 13, 2022 | PDA News

photo: View from High Knob, Shawnee National Forest

For a greener planet,
Debra Schrishuhn for the PDA National Team


Help Create the Nation’s First Climate Preserve


In 1949, forester and conservationist Aldo Leopold wrote A Sand County Almanac, a seminal argument for coexistence between humans and the land we inhabit. His concept of a land ethic is straightforward: “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”

Reflecting on Illinois and Iowa, Leopold observes that Illinois’ loss of native habitat is intended to “make Illinois safe for soybeans.”

Created as the Shawnee National Forest in 1939, a good deal of this Southern Illinois land was exhausted farmland on which FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corps planted trees to restore the soil and prevent erosion. Now those lands and adjacent areas are mature forests. Logging was suspended in the 1990s, but reinstated after a 17-year hiatus. Activists are seeking a redesignation of the 289,000-acre Shawnee National Forest, administered by the Department of Agriculture (USDA), to Shawnee National Park and Climate Preserve, under the auspices of the Department of the Interior’s National Park Service (NPS).

Here’s the deal:

  • Mature deciduous forests store massive amounts of carbon, mitigating climate change. The Shawnee’s biological diversity, recreation areas, 80+ Illinois Natural Areas Inventory sites, seven Wilderness areas, and scenic landscapes are unmatched across Illinois.
  • The Midwest has few national parks. Tourism-based businesses have grown across Southern Illinois since logging was suspended in the Shawnee, providing positive, long-term economic impacts on the region.
  • National Preserves are areas often associated with national parks. Public hunting, trapping, fishing, backcountry camping, and other traditional uses are permitted. A National Climate Preserve is a new concept, preserving areas where forests grow as intact ecosystems, free from CO2-releasing resource extraction. This “proforestation” approach encourages carbon sequestration, thereby reducing climate change while providing recreational opportunities.


Results of shelterwood clear-cutting in the Shawnee


PDA is working with allies to change the designation of Shawnee National Forest to Shawnee National Park and Climate Preserve. We can protect the Shawnee forests and at the same time create Illinois’ first National Park and the nation’s first Climate Preserve. A series of climate preserves can sequester and store greenhouse gases, helping to stabilize atmospheric carbon dioxide levels.

Use our Action Alert to write your Members of Congress today.

If you can, please volunteer and/or donate to support PDA’s efforts in fighting the climate crisis.


  1. Wendy DeMegret

    Best wishes for the success of this noble effort. I wish participants well and hope younger folks shall march forward. Unfortunately I am not well enough to contribute.

  2. Craig Rhodes

    Designating the Shawnee National Forest as a National Park and Climate Preserve would go a long way to ending the destructive extraction practices of the Forest Service under the Dept. of Agriculture.

    In order to rationalize their destructive management of the Shawnee National Forest the Forest Service cites outdated and disproven “science” while at the same time ignoring any effect their actions have to mitigate or adapt to climate change as required by law.

    The FS has seldom if ever been held accountable for what they’ve done and are doing to the Shawnee National Forest which is reason enough that protection of the SNF should be under the care of the Dept. of the Interior as a National Park and Climate Preserve.

  3. Sam Stearns

    As Victor Hugo said, “Nothing is so powerful as an idea whose time has come.”
    That is certainly the case with this Shawnee National Park and Climate Preserve proposal. As evidenced in small part by the photo above, the Shawnee National Forest is currently being logged at an unsustainable rate. Given the current climate crisis, it should not be logged at all: letting mature forest…mature…sequesters more carbon than logging or other ground-disturbing activities possibly can. Climate change aside, there is no good reason (despite a well-funded litany of lies to the contrary, part of a DISinformation campaign from Forest Service sycophants) to log public land like the Shawnee. Never in the history of the planet has a forest been logged back to health. Left alone, Nature is working around the clock every single day to grow the forest which the land requires at a given point in time—for free. As a National Park/Preserve, the Shawnee can provide amenities far greater than it ever could in forest products. To see the current destruction currently inflicted upon the Shawnee Hills or to see some of its breathtakingly beautiful places, please contact me at

  4. Karen Frailey

    This is a great idea!

    Southern Illinois is a beautiful part of the state and encouraging more folks to visit and bring economic sustainability to the area while at the same time helping mitigate climate change seems like a win/win to me.

    I believe the Shawnee already meets National Park Service standards.
    With many national parks experiencing record-breaking attendance, creating more national parks, especially in the Midwest, can only serve to lesson the impacts of intense visitor use, while encouraging people to visit areas they may not have considered before.

    I’d love to see a series of Climate Preserves designated across the Midwest – preserving our forests while sequestering carbon and providing recreational activities.

    As a good friend once said “We have these things, these trees…. they provide shade and habitat, they cool the earth, protect the soil and are beautiful to look at. Why wouldn’t we want to protect them?”