By Anne Szmul, Domestic News Editor
Yosemite National Park in California is one of the most visited parks in the United States. Thanks to a donation from the Trust for Public Land, an additional 400 acres will be added along the western border. The field, called Ackerson Meadow, is donated in the same year that the National Park Service celebrates its centennial.
Although the park sees an average of 3.8 million visitors per year, most do not leave the central area of the park. Even though most visitors will not set foot in the new area, due to the variety of protected species in the meadow, conservation groups have been eyeing the property for decades. A joint funding effort between the Trust for Public Land, Yosemite Conservancy, and the National Park Service raised a combined $2.3 million to purchase the land from private owners.
Ackerson Meadow also contains wetlands, which the park service plans to enhance by changing stream flow, according to the New York Times. With climate change affecting snowpack and increasing temperatures, meadows are more prone to drying out earlier in the year. Back in 2013, the wet soil was essential in protecting the area from wildfires.
After the fire, the owners closed off the field to grazing cattle. This raised some localized concern regarding the tradition of ranching.
The passage of the 400 acres from private to government control points to ongoing tensions regarding access to federal grazing permits. According to the Wall Street Journal, of the 38 million acres of pasture land in the state of California, about half are controlled by the federal government.
Yosemite itself is notable for its great biodiversity and rock formations. Located in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, the park is one of the largest continuous protected areas in the mountain range and is home to many native plants and animals. According to the National Park Service, over 90% of the land is designated wilderness.
The addition of the meadow bolsters the already esteemed park. Much of its most notable and viewed features are contained within a few square miles, composing only one percent of the park’s total area. This area, called Yosemite Valley, is surrounded by granite rock formations including Half Dome and El Capitan, the former being one of the most popular rock climbing sites in the world.
Originally protected from development in the 1800s by the Yosemite Grant signed by Abraham Lincoln, activist and novelist John Muir later advocated expanding the park. His efforts helped to preserve much of the area around Yosemite Valley, to include several different ecosystems as well as several sequoia groves. In 1984, the park was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Site list.
Will Rogers, the president of the Trust for Public Land, commented on the magnitude of the donation of the plot saying it was a “great way to celebrate the 100th birthday of our National Park Service—and honor John Muir’s original vision for the park.” Fulfilling this vision included the acquisition of the field, which is included in the original plans for Yosemite from 1890.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, September 13th print edition.
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