In a ruling (attached below) that stands to have wide implications, a federal appellate court has ruled against Yosemite National Park officials and their Yosemite Valley plan. Today's decision, say park officials, not only will halt more than $100 million in construction work on the valley floor but could lead to visitation limits in the scenic valley.
There's more than a bit of irony in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal's ruling, which centered on whether the park's development plan for the valley would illegally intrude on the wild and scenic Merced River. The Friends of Yosemite Valley long has maintained it would, and in the fall of 2006 convinced a federal judge that Yosemite's approach violated both the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.
And yet, while the National Park Service long has understood its primary mission to be conserving natural, cultural, and historic resources, the 9th Circuit's ruling had Yosemite officials lamenting that they might have to limit visitation to the Yosemite Valley to protect the resources.
"The implications here for Yosemite and all national parks are huge," park spokesman Scott Gediman said in a story carried by The Associated Press. "Any further restrictions on visitors or further things we need to do because of this could potentially be detrimental to the visitors' experience, and detrimental to running the park."
This topic has been around a long time. It was spawned by the 1997 Merced River floods that scrubbed clean parts of the valley floor in Yosemite and got park officials thinking about a better layout for lodgings, campgrounds, and trails.