Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt announced the release of the Final Yosemite Valley Plan/ Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement at a ceremony today in Yosemite National Park.
This Final Yosemite Valley Plan, the Secretary says, will provide a framework to restore degraded areas and reduce development within the Merced River ecosystem. It will also reduce the use of automobiles and relocate much of the remaining parking to areas outside of Yosemite Valley.
"After eight years of intensive work, I am pleased to announce a plan that provides balance for Yosemite National Park. This plan will conserve the natural and cultural resources of the park, while providing access and ensuring a quality visitor experience," Babbitt said.
Today's announcement follows several months of public hearings and meetings held throughout the country that included, according to park officialdom, 10,000 public comments regarding the draft plan.
Babbitt's comments were echoed by Yosemite National Park Superintendent David Milhalic who told those gathered (including several who oppose the plan) that, in his words, "The Yosemite Valley Plan lays the groundwork for managing Yosemite Valley for future generations. With this landmark plan completed, we can focus on protecting the ecosystems in the park," Mihalic said.
Among the vocal opponents to the plan is Tuolumne County Supervisor Mark Thornton whose district includes a large part of the national park. Thornton called the plan a "deception of the American People, pure and simple. It is nothing less than an outline for the total elimination of the private automobile from the park. At that point," the supervisor continues, "the 80% of the park's visitors who fall into the day use category will be forced to take a bus." Those who can afford the pricey nightly accommodations won't have this problem though. Stay at the Ahwahnee or Yosemite Lodge, for example, and those guests will not only be able to drive their car right into the park but then right into that accommodation's parking lot. Unlike the public parking lot in Yosemite Village for example, the hotels' parking allocations are not being downgraded.
Another opponent is Congressman George Radanovich who serves on the National Parks and Public Lands Committee and whose 19th District includes most of Yosemite National Park. The Mariposa representative says Babbitt's plan is, in his words, "fatally flawed." Radanovich charges that the plan does not further the National Park Service mission of providing for the public enjoyment of national parks. Instead, the congressman says, the plan "reduces public services and increases public costs...The plan will result in increased time and effort for the public wishing to enjoy the splendor of Yosemite Valley, and increased costs to the taxpayer to pay for the additional hassle. That doesn't make sense to me, and it doesn't make sense to my constituents in the gateway communities surrounding the park."
Implementation of the plan will, reportedly, begin after a Record of Decision is signed in December and will be phased in, we're told, over a 10-15 year period. We say "reportedly" begin because, far from being a done deal, Congressman Radanovich has announced his intention to conduct at least two separate hearings to "fully explore Yosemite's new plan." Financial implications aside, the congressman says he wants to spotlight the Park Service's efforts to "proceed with implementation of the plan without overall congressional approval."
Would you like to know more about the Final Yosemite Plan? A comprehensive look can be accessed by clicking here. A reminder though, this synopsis was prepared by the National Park Service and does not present any opposing views.