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The Yosemite Fund and The Yosemite Association Come Together Under The "Yosemite Conservancy"


The Yosemite Fund and the Yosemite Association, which late last year announced their plans to combine operations, are now operating under the name of the Yosemite Conservancy.

“Providing for Yosemite’s future is our passion,” said Mike Tollefson, a former superintendent of Yosemite National Park who now is president of Yosemite Conservancy. “This is now the only philanthropic organization dedicated exclusively to the protection and preservation of Yosemite National Park and enhancement of the visitor experience.”

The organization was created following the merger between the Yosemite Association and The Yosemite Fund, two nonprofits with more than 100 years of combined experience to support the park.

“Yosemite Conservancy offers people the opportunity to form enduring connections with Yosemite through its many unique programs," said Yosemite Superintendent Don Neubacher. "Support of the Conservancy funds trail repairs, habitat restoration, outdoor programs, volunteering, scientific research, and other essential works that might otherwise not happen.”

Mr. Tollefson highlighted a $1 million effort to support Youth in Yosemite programs as an example of the broad reach of the new organization to preserve, protect and enhance the visitor experience. Funding for Youth in Yosemite programs goes to repair trails, improve campgrounds, preserve images from Yosemite’s archives, and expand educational programs and exhibits. More than 40 projects and a variety of outdoor, volunteer and arts programs are planned in 2010.

Yosemite Conservancy works closely with the National Park Service to implement its work.

Mr. Tollefson said the merger creates a larger and stronger base of park supporters, adds expertise and resources to improve overall capabilities, and expands opportunities for supporters to participate in park programs. The merger was completed in January 2010 and the two groups began the process of creating Yosemite Conservancy.

The Yosemite Association was established in 1923 as the nation's first “cooperating association” with the National Park Service and has been offering outdoor programs, volunteering and a wealth of visitor services. Since 1988, the Yosemite Fund has focused on major trail and other rehabilitation projects, habitat restoration, and scientific research raising more than $55 million for 300 projects in the park such the restoring the approach to Yosemite Falls, improving 100 miles of trails in the park, and protecting threatened bighorn sheep.

“We knew that as partners we were achieving great things in the park every year, but we also recognized that together we could do so much more,” said Mr. Tollefson. “Yosemite Conservancy aims at creating new benchmarks in innovation and quality with every project that it completes. Large or small, every project will set a new standard of excellence.”

He said the best place to contribute and learn more is at or by calling 1-800-4-My-Park.


One of the best films on Yosemite National Park was done some 20 years ago, I believe from Robert Redford, called "Yosemite: Fate of Heaven". At least that is how I remember the title. It is arguably the best contemporary portrait of the National Parks ever attempted, as of this moment. The film dramatically captures exactly those kind of issues your above commenter is expressing. It was a watershed documentary production, that I believe answers your concerns extremely well. You might not agree with all it is saying, but it excellently captures your viewpoint on Yosemite's battle between preservation and resource-preservation within the Valley District.

National Park Leadership, those superintendents and Washington (WASO) Directorate members will pleasantly surprise you, if you know their true frame of reference, regardless of political affiliation. They are interested in these kind of management decisions concerning Yosemite Valley, or for that matter Cades Cove of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I will bet that the National Park Service and the Yosemite Conservancy recognize very clearly the challenge, and have best provided a win-win formula in the context of the 800,000 acre park complex.

But your passion brilliantly captures the electricity that makes Yosemite so fascinating.

Ben Lord

Thank you for posting this article, as it gives the public (me) a chance to speak out.

And now, the former Yosemite Fund, who formerly had no physical presence inside The Park, does have one, thanks to their so called merger with the Yosemite Association, something I see more like a forced takeover.

Yosemite Association solicited funds used to go towards things like money to pay volunteers that take campers and guests on nature walks. They used to pay for things like the printing of otherwise out of print books that you could find nowhere but at their store on website. Now, those donations are comingled with Yosemite Fund money, which will now be used, in addition to those other things, for various mass expansion projects such as the Lower Yosemite Falls project of a few years back, which turned a large untouched pristine section of Yosemite Valley into a city park with many times the amount of pavement that was there, along with fences, signs, massive stone structures for a huge shuttle bus stop and possibly the largest restroom building within the National Park system, designed by a famous San Francisco building architect, Larry Halprin, who, as his signature design at age 91, selected and hired by the Yosemite Fund to do whatever he wanted to do at the Lower Falls area with the Yosemite Fund's money, while the NPS stood back and watched, and did nothing. They even tried to justify it as they still do today. The late David Brower had a few words to say about it, as he was not at all a fan. I would be happy to post his letter to the park concerning that project if anyone asks for it.

Without any intervention, the Yosemite Fund cut a down a huge swath of trees. They didn't do that to return the area to what the area might have looked like if they hadn't enforced fire suppression over the past 150 years. No. Instead, they did it to open up a photo op’ view to the Lower Falls from the road, so that tour buses and drivers by could snap photos of the new unnatural scene that was thus created. If it weren't for public outcry they would have continued with parts of the project that are left unfinished, such as the larger viewing platform and bleachers that they intended to install, and the massive lighted granite bridge at the foot of Lower Falls. The NPS gave total permission to the Yosemite Fund to control the entire project. Local Native Americans had asked that they not build paved trails through what was their original village area on the east side of Yosemite Creek, an area that had been continuously used by them for over five thousand years, but, they did, without a word from the NPS. The Yosemite Fund created the Valley's single highest traffic tourist attraction with their money and their design team, while the NPS didn't step in and direct any of it. There is now a huge bronse plaque commemorating Larry Halprin and the Yosemite Fund for this nightmare of a project on the side of the bus stop. This project was so poorly planned that it caused the single worse traffic jam in Yosemite Valley, and probably the entire Park System, causing a steady stream of people crossing this main Valley exit road all day long on weekends. You will often see Park Rangers directing traffic all day on busy days just to get people across the main (and only) exit to Yosemite Valley. Forty years ago they turned all the roads (in and out) of The Valley into one-way roads, so this is a main feeder route which has to come to a complete stop for a steady, non stop, throng of people walking in both directions across the road there all day long, sometimes causing traffic to back up all the way to Yosemite Village and beyond on large weekends, a half mile away.

My subscriptions to the Yosemite Association have ended, now that the donations are comingled with that of the Yosemite Fund, in what they now call the Yosemite Conservancy, as they will solicit money in advance of such projects, to create projects that get overfunded, under the disguise of “saving Yosemite”. This is not to say that all of their projects are not good, as many are. The problem is, if they have money, there are some within their organization who will fund projects that expand the NPS “mission creep” agenda, which is to enable The Park to accommodate any number of visitors, with little to no consideration of human impact, as long as they can keep them on pavement, behind roped off vistas of the Merced River, on a shuttle bus, or in a fast food or gift shop concession service facility.

Much of the Yosemite Fund money has gone to the rebuilding of what can be referred to as photo-op shuttle and tour bus stops, so as to refurbish them in order to accommodate more people, though they would not admit that. They funded a whole new fleet of shuttle buses, so as to facilitate a more efficient conveyor belt like visitor's experience at Yosemite Valley, where on a busy weekend, one shuttle leaves a bus stop while another pulls in, without any consideration as to how to stem the tide of over visitation on busy weekends. I have not heard what they mean by their statement that 2009 had record visitation, as they have not released the numbers to my knowledge, but they are quite proud of that statement.

By investing their money this way, the new Yosemite Conservancy enables Yosemite to "accommodate all who want to come", the words of one former Park Superintendent. In a similar way, former Park Superintendent, Mike Tollefson once said, they "do not want to turn anyone away". These words, in essence, epitomize the National Park Service’s “Mission Creep”. They are there to serve people first, and then Yosemite's best interests only after the visitor is served first. This all flies into the face of those who wish to protect the balance between protection and recreation, those wanting to preserve the park while protecting a more natural camping experience is Yosemite Valley. The Yosemite National Park Service, by stating that Yosemite Valley is “front country”, discount any such city like sprawl, and suggest that the camping experience may have to move aside for the many thousands of day trippers who come there each day, as the world’s population expands.

Those who brought the Yosemite National Park Service through the court system seeking equity for Yosemite Valley, to protect it from such impacts, asked the court to require that Te Park be forced to put a carrying capacity back into their planning process, which they did. The Park had earlier refused to include a user, or carrying capacity study as a component to their planning efforts, as it constricted their wishes to commercialize and capitalize on the emerging tourist attraction that Yosemite could be, with further investments in city like infrastructures.

Now, thanks to the judicial arm of government, YNPS must establish a carrying capacity, but, while the Park Service takes years to do so, the Yosemite Fund (now the Yosemite Conservancy) continues to find money by soliciting it from unsuspecting tourists who mean well, to “save Yosemite”. They recently rebuilt the famous Wawona Tunnel View parking area with new pavement so as to handle heavier traffic and tour buses, along with the removal of many trees in order to to enhance the view of The Valley. They recently rebuild Olmstead Point, replacing broken concrete curbs with more city-like granite curbs and pavement, enabling it to accommodate heavier tour buses and more people. The same is the case for Yosemite Valley's Fern Springs where granite curbs and Cedar fencing with several new signs have changed what was a natural scene to one of NPS "cookie cutter" design, a.k.a. “mission creep”. They paid for the expanded pavement of the entire top of the Glacier Point lookout area, all so as to accommodate "all who want to come". Individually, none of these expansions seems too far out of place. But, collectively, they enable Yosemite to expand its ability to accommodate people in ways that nullify any future carrying capacity study. By the time they get that carrying capacity study done, thanks to the mission creep of the NPS, and the funding of the Yosemite Conservancy, Yosemite will already be able to accommodate ten times the daily traffic of a busy holiday weekend now, while the NPS sneaks more cedar fences and roped off areas, to keep people off of river banks and meadow areas, and on their new paved trails and carefully placed shuttle stops where numbered photo opportunities are created. Almost nowhere along the road in Yosemite Valley now can you pull off the road onto a soft shoulder, as most of these places have recently been lined with boulders, so as to keep you from stopping your car.

Such expansions will continue under the new "Conservancy". While some of us wait for a carrying capacity to evolve, as was court ordered, mission creep marches on. The carrying capacity is something that Mike Tollefson, former Yosemite Park Superintendent and now head of the Yosemite Conservancy, was against. When the court ordered a carrying capacity study to be done, he said he "did not want to do it", boldly stating his defiance with the court system. That he did not want to comply with a carrying capacity, may be why he was offered a job at the Yosemite Fund, because they are all about expanding tourism in Yosemite, and are big fans of this NPS “mission creep” mentality.

So, I am no longer a supporter of the Yosemite Association, who now has to comingle their money with the Yosemite Fund, headed by Mr. Tollefson, via their new Yosemite Conservancy.

Give them no money and they can do you no harm. I do not blame Mr. Tollefson. I am convinced he is a good, well meaning man. It’s that he represents the National Park Service’s “Mission Creep” mentality, which is what I do not trust.

Mark-- you are right-- there is a problem with to many people wanting to see Yosemite-- will you please stay home next season so someone who has not been there can go?? LOL

Thank you for epitomizing one of the very reasons no one wants to discuss this issue.

It, the quality of the Yosemite visit, is not about me. I will gladly camp elsewhere other than Yosemite Valley, which I have done twice in the past three weeks. I would gladly take a number if it means that the experience can be improved for others.

Yosemite Valley camping is insanely crowded and pretty much ruined as it is currently. What that camping experience is really about is what has been termed the Yosemite Experience by the Park planners. That experience, specifically the family friendly, drive-in camping experience should be and can be preserved for future generations.

Instead, the Y.N.P.S. seems bent on following the trend, which is preserve the Park on the backs of campers, by eliminating that camping experience all together, so that they can increase day-use accommodations for the ever increasing influx of day-trippers. In the '60s, 70% of the Park visitors had overnight accommodations inside the Park. Now, over 70% are day-trippers. A larger majority of those are international visitors than before, of course, due to the value we offer international tourism these days, which is another subject. The day-trippers of this era are increasing each year, overwhelming Yosemite Valley to the point that the experience is of overcrowding.

It's doubtful that any of the Yosemite National Park Service managers there now even know what public comments were made during the past 40 years. Those recorded views should be sampled, as those public comments contributed to first the 1980 Yosemite General Management Plan, and then later the Yosemite Valley Plan. The NPS moves people around so much that it becomes a continuous challenge to reeducate every new Yosemite Park Superintendent and their various managers and planners, with data from all the planning that went on before them. Each new group of Park managers seems to bring their own stir stick and agendas that reflect what some refer to as "Mission Creep". I feel that it's time to go back and look at the campground plans from the 1980 General Management Plan and see what and why the public contributed to planning back then, as well as more recent comments, rather than assume that everything from ten, twenty or thirty years ago is simply outdated. Some of the older comments may seem outdated because new NPS managers come to Yosemite bringing with them solutions that they used from other Parks.

It's time to consider that Yosemite National Park is special. Yosemite Valley sees an ever increasing onslaught of day tripping tourists. Today's tourists (you and I) are able to get their faster and easier simply because of the modern technology, such as wider roads and faster more accommodating forms of transportation, and though these things seem good in ways, Yosemite should not be required to accommodate all who want to come, as the world population increases and Yosemite becomes more and more overcrowded.

The Yosemite Experience is at jeopardy. Experiencing Yosemite is a luxury which should not be degraded simply because no one wants to limit it to an ever growing and demanding public with an insatiable appetite for personal gratification. I am included in that group.

I would gladly forsake my visits if there could be established a restrictive carrying capacity in Yosemite which also restores the now closed campgrounds, reestablishes the former plans made in the 1980 General Management Plan for the campgrounds, which separated campsites and pulled them away from the river, and also offered solutions to river and riverbank restoration.

First, there was the 1980 GMP, but the Park managers then had no money. Later, there came the Yosemite Valley Plan, because new Park managers came into the picture with support from a then outgoing government administration, and decided that the GMP was outdated. The newer Yosemite Valley Plan was supposed to "adhere to the 1980 GMP", but, not only did it not, but it is doubtful that any current Park Planner even knows where a copy of it is. Now, we are working towards a new Merced River (Wild and Scenic River) plan which should enable Park planners to correct mistakes of the past, which is said to include a “carrying capacity”.

Now, as always, we have new Park Managers who have come onto the scene, and we want to give them the benefit of the doubt.
The Park has to be protected and the experience improved from what it is now. If the current experience is all that we are protecting for future generations, then it's already ruined.

Take a look at what The Park might have been, if what recommendations Fredrick Law Olmstead's suggested, when Yosemite Valley was all there was to Yosemite National Park, with the high country not yet included back in 1864, when the government had a chance to protect Yosemite as the first Park in the entire world, preserved for future generations.
I understand that my personal preferences to preserve and recreate into a more natural experience, Yosemite Valley Camping, may be different than yours. To me, drive in camping should be a preferred method of experiencing in Yosemite Valley, combined with other forms of visitation in a balanced way. If they were to improve that experience, it would require that they reopen currently closed (formerly flooded) campground real estate. This, of course, is something we can debate. What should not debatable is the need to stem the tide of crowding from day-tripping.

 i thought this wd be simple: i had planned to leave monies in my will for habitat conservation, trail maintenance,etc. i'm a 5th generation californian and my great great grandfather and his brother, my great great great uncle (arthur and frank holmes) were technically the 2nd people to drive to yosemite , in a stanley steamer. i consider they were really the FIRST as the so called number one had his vehicle shipped most of the way, whereas my ancestors drove all the way from san jose! there is information about these adventures in some paperbacks in the bookstore.
i grew up taking sierra club hikes in the high country, so leaving money to yosemite seemed natural. but now...what to do? it is true that the valley is way over capacity, and i want to know, what exactly IS the vision for the park? until i know that i won't donate. 
any advice, quickly, wd be appreciated.

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