Yosemite plan may target backcountry camps

By Alex MacLean / The Union Democrat

The National Park Service is developing a plan to manage the wilderness areas within Yosemite National Park that could affect the five popular High Sierra Camps, according to park officials.

The NPS will seek input sometime this year on the tentatively titled "Yosemite Wilderness Stewardship Plan," according to park planning documents. Yosemite spokeswoman Kari Cobb said the process is currently in its "infancy stages" and she wasn't sure what effect it would have on the park's High Sierra Camps.

"It's such an early stage of the planning process ... but the High Sierra Camps are definitely something that would be looked at as part of it," Cobb said. "It's going to be focused essentially on user conflicts in wilderness areas, such as stock use, High Sierra Camps and the number of backpackers on the trails."

Some people who have followed the park's management plans, including recently approved plans addressingthe Tuolumne and Merced river corridors, are worried the Park Service may want to cut the number of overnight beds available at the camps.

They have reason to worry because the Tuolumne and Merced river plans both cut the number of beds at the Glen Aulin and Merced Lake High Sierra Camps.

"I think a foreshadowing of where the park will go was revealed in both the Merced River Plan and Tuolumne River Plan," said longtime Groveland resident Mark Thornton, who has been involved with the Yosemite planning process in the past.

DNC Parks and Resorts at Yosemite Inc., the concessionaire that manages lodging in the park, describes the High Sierra Camps as "one of the most popular ways to explore Yosemite's magnificent backcountry."

The concept of High Sierra Camps dates back to 1916 when the Park Service constructed the first camp at Merced Lake to attract people into the park's high country.

Part of the Park Service's objectives was to relieve congestion in Yosemite Valley by allowing easier access to Yosemite's wilderness, according to DNC Parks and Resorts.

Today, the camps at Merced Lake, Vogelsang, Glen Aulin, May Lake and Sunrise are spaced 5 to 10 miles apart along a loop trail that takes visitors through the park's scenic backcountry.

For the complete story, see the Aug. 19 edition of The Union Democrat.

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