Yosemite National Park Revises Schedule for Merced River Plan, CA

Yosemite National Park (YNP) is proposing a revised planning schedule for the Merced River Plan that could restrict climbing and camping access in Yosemite Valley. This plan could limit the number of campsites in the Valley and, in a worst case scenario, restrict climbing access to some crags along the river. This new project schedule, if approved by the court, will be completed in December 2011 and is in response to a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling requiring YNP to impose numeric limits on visitors in the Merced River corridor. For more background on this issue, see www.accessfund.org/pubs/en/e-news90.htm#_Two_Access_Lawsuits.

The courts order directs YNP to establish new wilderness trailhead quotas and numeric limits in the management corridor (approximately mile on each side of the river) to determine whether Wild and Scenic River values are protected and enhanced. YNP will now transition to site-specific planning in Yosemite Valley to analyze specific types and levels of public use, as well as evaluate the appropriateness of specific facilities.

The new December 2011 completion date envisions that the NPS will re-examine site-specific planning decisions for many areas formerly addressed by the 2000 Yosemite Valley Plan. A public scoping period will begin as soon as possible, and publication and distribution of preliminary alternatives will begin in summer of 2009. By January 2011, YNP will publish a Draft Merced River Plan. Both of these planning phases will be open for public review and comment with a final plan decision due around December 2011.

To stay tuned to the progress of the plan and to get involved, see www.nps.gov/yose/parkmgmt/newmrp.htm. The Access Fund will continue to monitor the progress of the Merced River Plan to ensure that climbing access is not unreasonably restricted. For more information email jason@accessfund.org.