Bill in Congress proposes allowing national park to add acreage.
If so you might be skeptical of a new bill making its way through the U.S. House of Representatives that would allow Yosemite National Park to grow by 1,575 acres.
According to a recent report in the San Francisco Chronicle, the Yosemite Expansion Act of 2012, or HR 5907, introduced last month by Rep. Jim Costa (D-Hanford/Kings County), authorizes the NPS to expand Yosemite’s western boundary through the addition of several adjacent Mariposa County parcels. A companion bill is expected to surface in the U.S. Senate.
The legislation is seen as having more clout than many other parks-related bills in the U.S. Congressional system, but it remains to be seen how it will play with advocates, especially given the current national climate in which public lands ownership touches sensitive political nerves.
“This is challenging Congress to move things through,” Laurie Wayburn, Co-Chief Executive Officer of San Francisco’s Pacific Forest Trust told the Chronicle. “This is one of those rare, common-ground movements. Yosemite has a very special place in Californians’ hearts.” The Pacific Forest Trust currently owns about two-thirds of the 1,575 acres covered by the bill, and a consortium of medical professionals owns the rest.
The bill does not appropriate any funds to purchase the land, and the legislation does not specify how much the Yosemite-area properties might cost. Wayburn said the value would have to be appraised. This year, the Land and Water Conservation Fund provided a total of $146 million for federal land acquisition nationwide.
The NPS could buy the designated land, which is located near an existing resort development called Yosemite West. The NPS could also acquire it through a land swap deal.
Yosemite spans 761,266 acres, making it the nation’s 17th largest park.
Costa’s bill is backed by Republican Reps. Jeff Denham (Turlock/Stanislaus County) and Dan Lungren (Gold River/Sacramento County), which could only help in a Republican-controlled House of Representatives. Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Elk Grove/Sacramento County), whose newly redrawn congressional district includes both Yosemite and Mariposa County, has not taken a public position on the bill.
The National Park Service can’t accept the land without an act of Congress, and has to complete a stringent checklist of items ranging from price tag to public policy.
“We saw an opportunity to get some of this land before it was purchased by a developer … and used our money that we had set aside for conservation to buy the property so it would be safe,” Pacific Forest Trust spokeswoman Kim Kowalski told the Chronicle.
When contacted about the proposed expansion, Scott Gediman, spokesman for Yosemite National Park, said the park service is not allowed to comment on pending legislation, but did acknowledge that the park borders have “pretty much been the same” since it was founded in 1906, though administrative locations were later added in El Portal.
Supporters of the expansion are swimming against a tide of resistance from those who think the federal government already administers too much public land. That sentiment surfaced earlier this year during a House hearing on a bill by Rep. Denham to authorize the purchase of 18 acres in Mariposa for a Yosemite visitor center and office.
“While many of us recognize the need to accommodate our tourism industry, we’re in opposition at the federal government purchasing more land in our county. They currently own 50 percent,” Mariposa resident Ronika Johnson told a House subcommittee.
If the NPS does acquire the land, the current Yosemite West subdivision would become encircled by park service property.