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The National Park Service has released for public review a draft Comprehensive River Management Plan (CRMP) for the Tuolumne Wild & Scenic River in Yosemite National Park. When finalized by the agency, the CRMP will determine the future of some of the most iconic segments of the Tuolumne River in Yosemite, including portions of the river flowing through scenic Tuolumne Meadows and the magnificent Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne.
The Park Service is holding public meetings concerning this plan beginning Feb. 19 and is seeking written or email comments on the plan until March 18, 2013. Please <click here> to view the schedule of upcoming public meetings and to send a comment email to the Park Service.
Congress protected the Tuolumne as a Wild & Scenic River in 1984. The protected river flows from its headwaters in Yosemite National Park into New Don Pedro Reservoir in the Sierra Nevada foothills. In Yosemite Park, the Tuolumne Wild & Scenic River possesses outstandingly remarkable scenic, recreation, biological, geological, and cultural values. The river is classified as Scenic where it parallels the Tioga Road (Highway 120) and flows through Dana and Tuolumne Meadows. The river then leaves Tuolumne Meadows, enters the Yosemite Wilderness, and begins a truly wild descent through the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne.
Intended specifically to ensure the protection of the 54 miles of this iconic Sierra river flowing through Yosemite National Park, the CRMP documents current river conditions, identifies management objectives for the river and specific actions and programs to achieve those objectives, and establishes visitor capacity programs that addresses the kinds and amounts of public use in the river corridors while protecting and enhancing the river. About 90% of the river in Yosemite Park Wilderness is relatively lightly used by park visitors. But thousands of visitors flock to the river in Tuolumne Meadows and vicinity.
The CRMP considers five alternatives that provide a range of day use and overnight recreational capacity levels (measured as people-at-one-time). In 2011, the overall maximum day use/overnight capacity of the river was about 4,516. The recreational capacities of the other alternatives range from 3,065 to 4,901 people. The various alternatives adjust these maximum capacity levels by limiting or expanding parking spaces, continuing or reducing existing commercial uses, and making recommendations about specific recreational uses.
The Park Service’s preferred alternative (Alt. 4) provides for a maximum user capacity (both day use and overnight) of 4,569 people, of which about 91% are visitors to the Tuolumne Meadows area. The alternative, or a combination of actions from various alternatives, that you would support depends very much on the kind of park experience you prefer. Some say that we may be loving Tuolumne Meadows to death. Others may be concerned about a perceived lack of amenities and other services.
Some key issues addressed in the plan to varying degrees include:
- Day Use Parking At Tuolumne Meadows – Most alternatives reduce roadside parking next to Tuolumne Meadows in favor of providing more centralized parking areas within walking distance to the meadows to reduce congestion and visitor impacts on wetlands and the meadow ecosystem.
- Commercial Services – Alt. 1 reduces overall visitor capacity by removing all commercial services from the Tuolumne Meadows area, including the Tuolumne Lodge, gas station, grill, and store. Another alternative reduces the overnight capacity of Tuolumne Lodge while maintaining its capacity in the other alternatives.
- Glen Aulin High Sierra Camp – Alt. 4, the Park Service’s Preferred Alternative, reduces overnight visitors to the Glen Aulin Camp. Alternative 1 removes the Camp, which is a non-conforming development in the existing Park Wilderness and Tuolumne Wild River segment. The other alternatives maintain the camp at current capacity.
- Whitewater Boating – The Park Service currently prohibits all boating on the Tuolumne within Yosemite Park. Some expert kayakers would like to legally run the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne (a class IV-V run requiring several portages). In response to whitewater interests, Alt. 2 allows for limited kayaking permits on the Tuolumne. All other alternatives continue to prohibit day use boating in Tuolumne Meadows in order to protect the meadow ecosystem.
- Ecosystem Restoration – All alternatives propose various levels of meadow, vegetation, and ecosystem restoration. However, none of the alternatives tie restoration goals to specific objectives, like re-establishing Yosemite toad, Sierra yellow-legged frog and other sensitive species that have disappeared from Tuolumne Meadows.
Friends of the River is still reviewing the Tuolumne CRMP and the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), and it has not yet taken a position on the alternatives or various actions proposed under the alternatives.
To review the Tuolumne CRMP/DEIS online, visit http://www.parkplanning.nps.gov/document.cfm?parkID=347&projectID=14043&documentID=49369
Attend A Public Meeting!
The Park Service has scheduled five meetings to seek public input and answer questions. These meetings include:
- Tuesday, Feb. 19, 5-8PM – Fort Mason Center Room C210, San Francisco, CA
- Wednesday, Feb. 20, 5-8PM – Community Center, Groveland, CA
- Thursday, Feb. 21, 1-4PM – Yosemite Lodge Cliff Room, Yosemite Valley, CA
- Saturday, Feb. 23, 9AM-Noon – Mammoth Lakes Council Chambers, Suite Z, Minaret Shopping Center, Mammoth Lakes, CA
- Wednesday, Feb. 27, Open House in Visitor Center Auditorium, Yosemite Valley, CA
TAKE ACTION - Comment Today!
The deadline for public comments in March 18, 2013. You can submit comments using the Park Service’s online form at: http://www.parkplanning.nps.gov/commentForm.cfm?documentID=49369
Or you may mail or email comments directly to:
Superintendent Don Neubacher
Yosemite National Park
Attn: Tuolumne River Plan
P.O. Box 577, Yosemite, CA 95389