Judge Orders Halt To Yosemite Work
Here's an incredible mess the Park Service has gotten itself into by ignoring the writing on the judicial walls.
In the wake of previous court rulings that Yosemite officials had failed to adequately come up with a development plan for the Yosemite Valley that protects the Merced River -- a designated Wild and Scenic river -- a federal judge has ordered a halt to a string of construction projects in the valley and told the Park Service to come up with a better plan for protecting the river corridor.
The order affects plans to redesign the Yosemite Lodge, upgrade the loop road that negotiates the scenic valley, reconfigure campgrounds and a handful of other projects. The impact could run up to two years in length while the Park Service goes back to the drawing board.
In an Associated Press story recounting the ruling, Yosemite spokesman Scott Gediman laments its impact, saying, "The fact that now we can't repave a road, with winter coming on, is just devastating. Sure you can argue about campgrounds or building the lodge, but what about when you've got paving on a road that's literally falling apart?"
But in his ruling, U.S. District Judge Anthony Ishii essentially said the Park Service has failed to properly protect the Merced River from encroaching human activity, no "ifs," "ands" or "buts."
Over at Friends of Yosemite Valley, Director Greg Adair understandably applauded the ruling.
"The problem in Yosemite is the Park Service vision of upscale hotel rooms, reduction of family camping opportunities, and the implementation of an urban mass transit busing scheme and with that, price increases that will push average Americans away," he said. "In addition to failing to protect the river, the park's invalid planning documents accommodate this growing threat of commercialism."
While this ruling no doubt will create short-term problems for park visitors, hopefully it will send a message throughout the park system that planners need to do a better job when figuring out how to deal with visitation and impacts to natural resources. Simply building bigger lodges and rerouting roads and campgrounds is not always the best, most prudent answer.
As Adair noted in his reaction, "The Park Service recently grumbled that citizens are standing in the way of the agency moving forward in Yosemite. They're wrong. The direction given by this court suggests that NPS has it backwards."