YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, Calif. - The plunging waterfalls and soaring crags chiseled by the Merced River draw millions of visitors each year, but the crowds are precisely what threatens the waterway and the park. Efforts to safeguard the Merced have spawned a court battle over the future of development in Yosemite National Park's most popular stretch. The case may come down to the challenge facing all of America's parks: Should they remain open to everyone, or should access be limited in the interest of protecting them? In November, a federal judge barred crews from finishing $60 million in construction projects in Yosemite Valley, siding with a small group of environmentalists who sued the federal government, saying further commercial development would bring greater numbers of visitors, thus threatening the Merced's fragile ecosystem. "The park's plans for commercialization could damage Yosemite for future generations," said Bridget Kerr, a member of Friends of Yosemite Valley, one of two local environmental groups that filed the suit. The government is appealing, fearing the ruling could force the National Park Service to limit the number of people allowed into Yosemite each day, a precedent it doesn't want to see echoed in other parks. "I don't think we've ever had a ruling with these kind of implications," said Kerri Cahill, a Denver-based planner for the park service. "It's going to have a direct influence on the public who care about these places." The case has Yosemite's most loyal advocates sharply divided over how to balance preservation with access to public lands. Even environmentalists can't agree on how to minimize the human footprint — some believe cars should be kept out entirely; others say visitors should have to make reservations in advance. Yosemite was the first land in the country set aside for its scenic beauty, declared a public trust in 1864 by Abraham Lincoln. Its 1,200 square miles of granite peaks and towering waterfalls became a national park in 1890, and with few exceptions its gates have been open to all ever since, though backcountry permits are limited to minimize the human impact on wilderness areas. The Merced itself is protected under the federal Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. The current fight began when the Merced flooded in 1997, wiping out campgrounds and parking lots and damaging rooms at the popular Yosemite Lodge. The park service drew up a $442 million remodeling plan that included moving campgrounds, rerouting a key access road, rebuilding employee housing and upgrading hotel rooms on the valley floor. Kerr's group and Mariposans for the Environment and Responsible Government sued, claiming aspects of the park's plans — including blasting part of the river canyon — threatened the Merced.
The next step would be to make it a "Pay to Play" for fishing. C&R to be a must!
I totally agree. Get the parking lots and hotels out of there and make people hike it. That's the problem with people these days anyhow. Everyone is so use to being pampered. It's time to drag out the hiking shoes and get off your butts!!!! LOL You can't appreciate nature from a hotel room or from the inside of a vehicle anyways. Not to mention, you can't appreciate something that doesn't exist, so it should be an easy choice. But, capitalism will win everytime.
That is sad what they are doing to the park. They should eliminate the Hotels, move the parking lots out of there and limit it to day use only by hiking in.
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