Nearly 150 years ago, Californians and their Senator John Conness recognized the remarkable nature of Yosemite Valley with its majestic cliffs, gentle meadows and lovely meandering Merced River—as well its fragility and threat from exploitation. Their foresight and subsequent efforts secured the original Yosemite Grant, which gave us an extraordinary legacy-Yosemite National Park.
Today, using that same foresight, Representative Jim Costa (D-20th), working with the Pacific Forest Trust (PFT), the conservation organization that has led the fight to add these lands to the Park, introduced a bill (H.R. 5907) that would expand Yosemite National Park’s boundaries and once again protect land threatened by development. Reps. Jeff Denham (R-CA 19th), Mike Thompson (D-CA 1st) and Dan Lungren (R-CA 3rd) are co-sponsors of the bill.
“From Yosemite Falls to Half Dome to Tuolumne Meadows, there is no debating that Yosemite is one of our national treasures that must be preserved for future generations. This legislation marks the commitment of Californians from all walks of life to protecting and building on the legacy of the last 150 years,” said Rep. Costa.
Rep. Lungren agreed, noting: “Yosemite is a very special place to me and all who visit this national treasure. This bill will help to return the park to its originally proposed boundaries, and is an opportunity which may not be possible in the future. If we don’t act, this land will likely be developed and the chance to keep this area in its natural state is lost forever.”
The 150th anniversary celebration honoring the original grant occurs in 2014. “Passing this legislation will allow land to be transferred to the Park in time to really honor the occasion,” said Linda Adams, a PFT Board Member who worked closely with Mr. Costa on the legislation.
“For 150 years generations of families have been able to enjoy the wonders of Yosemite. This will enhance families’ enjoyment for hundreds of years more,” said Thompson. “Yosemite is a natural treasure, and that it is why we are working across the aisle to make sure it is protected for our kids and grandkids.”
This bill will restore lands to the Park that had been part of it in the 1880s and were included in the original boundary proposed by John Muir. The land included in this proposal sits next to the isolated Yosemite West development, between the western edge of the Park and Sierra National Forest, and is currently threatened by development. Given the very high fire risk in the area, limited water, the extreme cost of providing basic county services to this remote area, and their desire to protect the Park’s integrity, Mariposa County strongly backs Congressman Costa’s bill authorizing the addition of this land to Yosemite. So, too, do the state legislators representing the district, Senator Tom Berryhill (R-Modesto) and Assemblymember Kristin Olsen (R-Modesto).
Park visitation is a major economic contributor to Mariposa County, and the protection of this land will create important new public recreational opportunities, as well. This bill will help prevent further rural sprawl, maintain important wildlife habitat, and reduce both the risk of wildfire starts and the cost of protecting homes built in the woods.
The landowners affected by the proposal, as well as the Yosemite West Homeowners Association, have unanimously indicated that they support the legislation. Notably, the legislation introduced today would allow the Park to accept these properties, but does not appropriate any funds, leaving that action to existing land protection programs.
The Pacific Forest Trust is proud to have worked closely with Representative Costa and the Park Service to ensure that this important landscape will be forever protected as part of the Park. Since 2004, PFT has acquired over 1,000 acres of land threatened by development in this area, with the intention of adding the property to the Park and preserving its integrity.
To learn more about the Yosemite BLA Project, including maps, support letters, and other background materials, visit the PFT website here: http://pacificforest.org/Yosemite-Anniversary-BLA.html
About the Pacific Forest Trust: Since 1993, the Pacific Forest Trust (PFT) has been dedicated to conserving and sustaining America’s vital, productive forest landscapes. Working with forest owners, communities and an array of partners, we advance innovative, incentive-based strategies to safeguard our nation’s diverse forests. In so doing, we’re ensuring forests continue to provide people everywhere — from rural communities to urban centers — with a wealth of benefits, including clean water, sustainably harvested wood, green jobs, wildlife habitat and a livable climate. The Pacific Forest Trust is headquartered in San Francisco, California. To learn more about PFT, please visit: www.PacificForest.org.