Yosemite Valley Plan: Back to Square One?
Sometimes, believe it or not, the park superintendents on the ground actually know what they're doing. Unfortunately, their advice/suggestions/actions are not always recognized by the powers that be in Washington.
Take, for instance, former Yosemite Superintendent Mike Finley's decision back in the 1990s to, for a few weekends, actually limit visitor numbers in the Yosemite Valley as the Yosemite Valley Plan in place at the time demanded. Finley caught hell, but survived and went on to extend his excellent career as a superintendent at Yellowstone before he simply couldn't stomach the Bush administration's mishandling of the National Park Service and retired.
Why do I bring this up now? Because, if haven't heard, a federal judge in California has slammed current Yosemite officials for, among other things, failing to come to terms with overcrowding in the Yosemite Valley.
Had Finley's superiors in the 1990s paid heed to his actions, they might have taken a long, hard look at tourist numbers in the Yosemite Valley and decided something had to be done. But they didn't, and the crush that the valley is come summer has continued unabated.
Well, U.S. District Judge Anthony Ishii criticized the Park Service last Friday for its lack of getting serious about determining the valley's carrying capacity of tourists when it worked through the latest design for remaking the valley's tourist footprint in the wake of the 1997 floods.
Ishii not only rejected on a number of environmental counts the park's management plan for the Merced River as it flows through the valley floor, but also cited the lackadaisical approach to a cap on tourist numbers in the valley. You can read the details of the judge's ruling in the Los Angeles Times.
What will be interesting to see in the weeks ahead is whether Judge Ishii orders the Park Service to stop work on a number of projects in the valley until it corrects the deficiencies he found in its management plan for the Merced River. Just as interesting will be whether the Park Service comes to terms with overcrowding on the valley floor and limits daily visitor numbers.
"There should be a system in place that guarantees visitors have access to Yosemite Valley under conditions where they're not just swimming in a tide of people," Greg Adair, director of Friends of Yosemite Valley, told the Times.