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Brower Blasts Yosemite Plan.

An October 2000 ribbon-cutting for a road-widening project at Yosemite National Park was disrupted by environmentalists who called the event "illegal, shameless and inappropriate." The widening of El Portal Road, part of a controversial park development plan, was undertaken despite a court ruling that the project violated state and federal environmental laws.

Sierra Club spokesperson Joyce Eden declared: "We will not sit back and watch as they build new roads, hotels and parking lots along the Merced Wild and Scenic River." Earth Island Founder Dave Brower recalled: "I am old enough to remember when the Park Service believed in the national park idea, which is to preserve nature intact for future generations. Vandalism should not be celebrated."

On November 13, when Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt unveiled the US National Park Service's (NPS) $343 million Yosemite Valley Plan, it sounded like a good deal, with 189 acres restored and shuttle buses replacing cars. But it was environmental patriarch Dave Brower, who died five days before Babbitt's announcement, who had the last word.

In an essay mailed to the San Francisco Chronicle before his death, Brower laid into the NPS for "converting this temple into a profit center, with pricey hotels, scant camping, few modest accommodations, wider roads to field bigger diesel buses, ecological roadside mayhem (and) atmospheric damage.

"When I see the war zone that used to be the Merced River Gorge," Brower wrote, "I am furious that the criminals (who) pushed this project through -- in violation of the National Environmental Protection Act and the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act -- are allowed to continue their shoddy planning in the rest of the park." Brower suggested the planners should take "some time out to rethink (in jail, preferably)."

Brower had campaigned against plans to build large parking lots outside the park where visitors could leave their cars and board diesel buses. Brower proposed an expanded rail system and nonpolluting clean-fuel buses, more affordable campsites, and a moratorium on building expensive new hotels in the Valley.

Friends of Yosemite Valley Director Greg Adair noted that more than 90 percent of the plan's budget would finance new construction and development. The plan would remove nearly 40 percent of the Valley's camping while expanding restaurants by 30 percent. "This plan will not restore Yosemite," Adair charged. "Instead, it calls for massive expansion in infrastructure, would consume more land, would degrade air quality, and would further develop the park." Adair noted that Yosemite concessionaire Delaware North, the plan's biggest winner, has "funded [Babbitt's] political campaigns for decades."

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Author:Smith, Gar
Publication:Earth Island Journal
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1U9CA
Date:Mar 22, 2001
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