Thank you for including photos. In am not suggesting that any of the plans were not well intentioned. I do have problems with several things that have occurred in this planning process. For one, as the Fresno Federal Court, and Judge Ishii points out, the Merced River Plan, which is the blueprint of the Yosemite Valley Plan, was to be the guiding document to provide what would and/or could be allowed.
What occurred was Mr. Bruce Babbitt, the then Secretary of Interior made the statement that all of the planning had to be completed before he (they) left office, which was December 31, 1999. I contend that both plans were rushed to completion. Their final Record of Decision, approving the Yosemite Valley Plan occurred three days before that date.
As you recall, the flood of 1997 was referred to by Mr. Dave Mihalic, Yosemite Park Superintendent at the time, and Mr. Bruce Babbitt concurred that this act of nature allowed them to rethink what to do in the valley. In fact, they took advantage, in my view, of this situation to adjust what they themselves would allow to be included in the public scoping of the campgrounds. Subsequent to the flood, when the campground scoping period for public input came up, the public were not allowed to debate what to do with these campgrounds which had been taken off the discussion table.
In 1995 the park service had already said that they would like to remove all campsites north of the river. In 1997, they used the flood to do just that, claiming that the flood did what the public would not have allowed them to do, in essence cutting off the public from any further dialogue on the subject.
Since the 1980 Yosemite Valley General Management Plan, (GMP), the public had offered input. At the point that the flood occurred, public input was cut off, as it relates to these campgrounds.
It is my view that if managed properly to limit impact, the GMP plan, as it related to the these campgrounds had a better solution. It addressed riparian issues, reduced campsites, separated campsites, and pulled campsites away from the river. This plan removes entirely three and a half entire campgrounds, taking into consideration valley’s old group campground, impacting youth groups, church groups, etc. By doing so, in order to maintain the park’s desired goals of campsites, the remaining campgrounds can no longer be separated, resulting in no improved Yosemite Valley camping experience for drive-in campers in the valley. Not that all of the existing campsites are too close to each other, but as you know, some are. In the GMP, these campsites would have been separated, and the camping experience enhance.
On a separate, but related subject, as the court in Fresno pointed out, the park did not use a “carrying capacity” in their plan to as a ruler to control human impact. The park decided to use what they call the V.E.R.P. system, as their ruler, rather than a set limits on the number of people allowed in the park at any one time. The V.E.R.P. system does not guaranteed protection to Yosemite’s vulnerable areas. What it does do is enable the park to adjust the acceptable limits of human impact ever upward as future generations are more accepting of the ever increasing population. Because of the park’s history of bias towards commercial interests that has directly profit them via the profit sharing agreement that they have with Delaware North, ventures like the rafting concession could be used to cast a wary eye on the park’s commitment toward setting limits as the park continues to get more impacted.
By establishing limits, and utilizing part of the flood zone for camping, which is common in every other park where campsites abut river embankments, the valley would see far less impacts. But, instead, the park’s former Director of National Parks, Ms. Fran Mainella has stated that day use offers better use of these former campground areas because more people will be able to use (impact?) these areas if the park concentrates on and accommodates day use as their primary focus. This is a paraphrase, but I can post the actual statement if you would like from the April, 2003 Congressional Subcommittee hearing in Yosemite Valley, where many campers such as I attended.
I am tempted to go on, but feel that this may be an inappropriate for a poster like me to write a small novel. Lol. Thank you so much for the opportunity to address some of the issues. Please feel free to point out areas where you feel I may be off base.
Regarding the issue that has not yet been discussed, as it relates to the Yosemite National Park Service going to congress and seeking flood recovery money to restore the campgrounds to the exact state that they were in before the flood occurred, a play on words, but using the money to do everything but that, I would like to end this post with a statement that was made by Mr. Mark Thornton, Tuolumne County Supervisor:
“As Tuolumne County Supervisor I have communicated directly to the NPS my belief that they are in violation of Federal law in their plans to eliminate these campgrounds. They have a moral and ethical obligation to have properly informed and justified to the American people why they chose to violate Congress' and the President's intent to have these campgrounds reinstated after the 1997 flood event.
If not stopped, the NPS will eventually eliminate most auto based, family friendly camping in Yosemite. Congress must take action, and you, by signing this petition, can help initiate that action to save America's National Parks for America's families."
If you get a chance, take a look at the many thoughtful comments by people who have taken the time to post while signing the petition. You will find the petition link at