Yosemite Seeks Comments on Wilderness Plan
By: Megan Hooker
Yosemite National Park recently announced that it is beginning the process of updating its Wilderness Stewardship Plan, and has requested that the public provide comment about the future of the Wilderness lands within the Park.
The Wilderness Stewardship Plan will govern activities within Yosemite’s designated Wilderness Areas, which make up about 94% of the Park. Earlier this year, Yosemite National Park began to implement its Merced and Tuolumne Wild and Scenic River Management Plans, which opened both rivers to boating for the first time in decades. However, numerous other rivers within the Park remain closed to paddlers. The Wilderness Stewardship Planning process provides an opportunity to ask that the Park consider opening the rest of the rivers in the Park to boating, and we encourage you to weigh in.
American Whitewater would like the Wilderness Stewardship Plan to recognize and include paddling as a sustainable form of recreation that is compatible with wilderness values. During the development of the Wild and Scenic Plans for the Merced and the Tuolumne, we advocated that “rivers are trails and boats are backpacks,” and that similar rules and access policies should apply to both boating “trails” and hiking trails. The Park ultimately agreed with this approach, and began to implement it in early 2015. A significant number of boaters have since traveled the length of Yosemite Valley by boat, and at least two groups have hiked in to the Wilderness Area to paddle the upper Merced River above the Valley.
The current Wilderness Stewardship Plan was written in 1989, and does not specifically mention paddling. However, it does outline specific daily quotas for the trails within the Wilderness Areas. We believe that our approach on the Merced and Tuolumne Wild and Scenic Plans remains relevant for the rest of the Park. We successfully collaborated with Park Staff as they developed those plans, and are happy to see that implementation has gone smoothly. We look forward to engaging with the Park Service in a similar way as it develops the Wilderness Stewardship Plan.
You can help encourage Yosemite National Park to consider expanding paddling opportunities within the Park by submitting a comment during the Wilderness Stewardship Plan scoping period. The Park will receive comments until Friday, January 29th, 2016.
The Park will also hold several webinars over the next month and a public meeting in the Park on January 20th. You can get more information about public hearings here, and learn more about the Wilderness Planning process overall here.
**Thanks to Priscilla Macy and Jacob Cruser for the photo!