A recipe for ruining Yosemite?
The San Francisco Chronicle
To the Editor
"A recipe for ruining Yosemite?" Your lead editorial (25 July 2003) is way off the beam. Actually, the present Yosemite Management Plan is designed to keep out campers and day visitors that want the freedom and convenience of touring the park in their own cars. Their visits will have to be done via shuttle bus, while the more affluent visitors who stay at the hotels will have no restrictions placed on their driving within Yosemite Valley. Cool, huh? Let the poor and thrifty visitors be forced to ride and tour Yosemite Valley in the awful shuttle buses, while letting those that stay in the Ahwahnee Hotel can continue to bring their cars and SUVs, no problemo.
I have read about the latest Yosemite Valley management plan and I am not too pleased with several aspects of it. The new plan calls for the elimination of about two-thirds or sixty-six percent of the present day-use parking places for visitors. This is a direct stab at the thriftier, low-end budget user of the Park, who cannot afford the expensive rooms in the fancy hotels or who is unwilling or unable to camp. Many of us fall into this category: handicapped visitors, older visitors, foreign visitors, younger couples with several young children. These people should not be forced into the transit bus experience.
If the powers-that-be in Yosemite have to eliminate parking in the Valley, how about eliminating the parking spaces at the large hotels? Let these hotel guests ride the transit buses into the Valley. Let's see if the guests at the fancy hotels in Yosemite Valley are keen for their new transit experience.
If the number of automobiles is excessive on some summer weekends, just limit the total number of vehicles allowed in the Valley at one time. Simple. No need to create a massive busing and transit system.
The second large change that I find objectionable is the elimination of some forty-two percent of the camping sites in the valley. Why pick on the campers? Campers have a relatively light impact on the local environment, especially when compared to the infrastructure and staffing required by hotel guests.
Yosemite Valley is not by any stretch of the imagination what is now called a "wilderness area." People killed off the major predators, the Gray Wolf, Canis lupus, and the Grizzly Bear, Ursus horribilis, in the 19th Century. The Valley is covered with aggressive wildflowers and grasses and other plants that came from Europe and elsewhere. The notion of "restoration" is essentially a bogus one, because the Valley can never be restored to its pre-European man situation unless we keep all people out for hundreds of years, after have done massive ecological damage with bulldozing and spraying herbicides to try to kill over all of the now-naturalized plants.
Are we going to root out each and every Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), every Curly Dock (Rumex crispus), every Plantain (Plantago major)? It is a fool's errand to even try to undertake such a monumentally destructive effort. And to what end? Are we going to re-introduce the Wolves and the Grizzly Bears? Sounds lunatic to me. Are we going to reintroduce the Native Americans that lived in the Valley before the Spanish and other Europeans showed up? Who knows what environmental damage the Native Americans wrought when they lived in Yosemite Valley? I'm sure that they created grass and woodland fires at certain times of the year for their own ends.
The whole notion of "environmental restoration" is chasing the will 'o the wisp. It is just another form of intensive non-organic gardening, masquerading under the guise of "ecology." The first thing that one learns when one studies ecology, is that all ecological systems are dynamic. Things are constantly changing; the weather changes; outside pressures in the form of viruses, bacteria and fungi attack both plants and animals.
People come from all over the world to see the amazing and sublime geology of Yosemite: the gray towers and sheer walls of granite that surround the narrow Valley. They do not come from all over the world to see native plants being gardened with herbicides being sprayed on their naturalized plant brothers and sisters.
If Yosemite management wants to take out the bowling alley, fine. But lets not pretend that we can or should attempt to re-create "wilderness" in our very domesticated Yosemite Valley.
The management of Yosemite could simply and cheaply limit the total number of visitor vehicles each day, but that would be too easy and too inexpensive.
James K. Sayre
25 July 2003