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How Can Yosemite National Park's Magnificent Vistas Be Preserved?


What can be done to preserve views in Yosemite, such as this one of El Capitan? Kurt Repanshek photo.

To say Yosemite National Park is an eyeful is an understatement. Everywhere you look it seems there's something to fix your gaze on -- Half Dome, Glacier Point, El Capitan, Tenya Lake.

But how can we preserve those vistas for future generations? How can we ensure that they're as marvelous (if not more so) 50 or 100 years down the road as they are today?

Those are questions the folks at Yosemite are hoping to be able to answer in the months ahead. Beginning February 12 the park will embark on a 30-day-long public scoping period to gather thoughts on what should be considered as they move forward with developing a Scenic Vista Management Plan Environmental Assessment

Written comments should be postmarked no later than March 13, 2009.

Historians will tell you that Yosemite was originally set aside for preservation due to its outstanding scenery. Back in 1851, when Dr. Lafayette Bunnell, first set his eyes on the Yosemite Valley, this is how he described the incredible setting of rock, water, and trees: "...the clouds...partially dimmed the higher cliffs and mountains. This obscurity of vision ... increased the awe with which I beheld it, and as I looked, a peculiar exalted sensation seemed to fill my whole being."

Millions of modern-day explorers have experienced this same view. Today, we call it Tunnel View. It’s just one of many iconic views and vistas for which Yosemite is famous.

With that accepted, the purpose of the Scenic Vista Management Plan is to:

* Protect Yosemite’s historic viewsheds and the natural processes that created them.

* Preserve the historic and cultural contexts in which the viewpoints were created.

* Restore visitor-use opportunities associated with lost vistas.

* Where historic viewpoints cannot be rehabilitated, identify potentially new views or vistas.

* Restore or maintain vistas by restoring natural species composition, structure, and function to systems or by using traditional Native American management practices.

A public open house is scheduled for February 25 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the Valley Visitor Center Auditorium in Yosemite Valley. Park Admission fees will be waived for those attending the open house.

You can either submit your thoughts at that meeting, fax them to 209-379-1294, email them from this page, or, after February 12, use the National Park Service's Planning, Environment, and Public Comment commenting system.


I discussed views at Yosemite with some local friends of mine, and one of their complaints is "there are a lot more trees in the valley than I remember when I was a kid." I'm wondering if the amount of park facilities in the valley precludes natural fires from clearing out the growth, instead there are far too many trees & shrubs blocking the view. I'd love to hear others expound on this: is overgrowth due to a "no fires" policy in the valley artificially ruining the Yosemite experience?


My travels through the National Park System:

Yosemite has a comprehensive fire management program. This includes prescribed fires, mechanical thinning and wildland fire control. Natural fires are permitted to burn in certain backcountry areas. The Valley is too densely populated to permit uncontrolled burns. The park occasionally does trim back “unnatural” areas. Most recently, the Tunnel View has had 2 very large trees that grew up and intruded into camera shots of El Cap and Half Dome from the parking lot vantage point.. Shazam – last year they were cut down, since they were not originally there. So now your photos will come out perfect! The subjective opinion of “too many trees” is a hard one for the park to devote resources to. Your experience as a kid was different from that of your parents. Who’s is to say what the “perfect” park should be?

Rick Deutsch -Mr. Half Dome
Author: "One Best Hike: Yosemite’s Half Dome"

Let me just clarify that I only visited Yosemite in '07, so I personally don't have that childhood view. I was relaying comments from friends of mine from Sacramento & Fresno.

Personally, I love trees, and I really loved the way you'd hike a trail in the woods and then BAM you're suddenly staring at a big granite cliff face!


My travels through the National Park System:

Regarding the comment on trees and blocking views. I have been to Yosemite 2 times and plan on another visit this coming June. I lived only about a hour from the park for over 20 years and never visited. It wasn't until I moved to Montana/Idaho and now Oregon that I have wanted to visit all the parks here in the West. Sorry, got distracted. There is a post card that shows the Chapel with Half Dome behind it and no trees. On my first visit, I could not figure out how they got that shot. My second visit, I realized that all the trees had grown up along the Chapel, but the park still felt compelled to sell an old photo of the Chapel without them. I was totally disappointed that I could not get the same shot. Most of the time, I work around the trees that have grown up and blocked the views that we see in some of the older images.

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