Access Fund Joins Broad Coalition Opposing Numerical Limits on Access in Yosemite National Park


Climbing Advocates Sign Amicus Brief in U.S. Court of Appeals Supporting Efforts to Protect the Merced River and Visitor Access in Yosemite

The Access Fund announced on May 10th that it has joined a group of seven leading conservation and recreational organizations to take legal action supporting a specific point in the Yosemite National Parks Merced River Management Planadaptive carrying capacity management provisions.

The Merced River Plan, on hold since a District Court ruling in 2006 and currently in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, addresses use capacity in Yosemite Valley as a means to preserve and protect the Merced Wild & Scenic River. At issue is a District Court ruling that imposes numeric limits on visitors without the benefit of resource-based indicators.

The Access Fund maintains that this approach is impractical and unfair and that adaptive carrying capacity management provisions are a better management approach to protect the environment and visitor access.

For climbers, the Merced River litigation could be precedent setting concerning the establishment of user and carrying capacity restrictions for Wild and Scenic River areas across the country. The 9th Circuit Court ruling could result in restricted climbing access in all Wild and Scenic River management areas including Yosemite Valley, Yosemites Tuolumne region, the New River Gorge in West Virginia, the Obed River in Tennessee and other designated and proposed Wild and Scenic Rivers in California, Colorado, Idaho, Utah, Oregon, Washington, Kentucky, and elsewhere.

The Access Fund did not take its involvement in the appeal lightly. In the past the Access Fund has been at odds with Yosemite National Park on a variety of management plans but supports the Merced River Plan because the District Courts ruling requires a non-adaptive process placing specific but unproven numerical limits on use regardless of need. A better approach is the Merced River Plans scientifically sound adaptive carrying capacity management provisions that are based on decades of progress by national experts and professional land managers that would adjust visitor access when needed to prevent environmental harm and correct unacceptable impacts before they become irreversible.

The Access Fund signed onto a Friends of the Court brief in the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, joining several other organizations including The Yosemite Fund, Friends of the River, the American Alpine Club, National Parks Conservation Association, California Trout and The Wilderness Society.

The Access Fund intends this issue to be resolved through constructive engagement and cooperation. The case will be heard in San Francisco this fall and the Access Funds involvement will allow the climbing community to be heard during the appeal process.

For more information, please contact Access Fund Policy Director Jason Keith at 303.545.6772 ext.102 or email at [email protected].