Fall project continues,
despite strong opposition
by Kim Van Meter
of the Mariposa Tribune
YOSEMITE — For the citizens actively involved in the fight to stop the controversial Lower Yosemite Fall Project, May 16, 2002, may become a date that will live on in infamy. On that day, upon the recommendation of Park Superintendent Dave Mihalic, Pacific West Region Director John Reynolds signed the “FONSI”[finding of no significant impact] for the project, effectively freeing the project wheels to start rolling despite the expressed environmental and cultural roadblocks.
The Fall Project is the first of many scheduled beautification/restoration projects described in the controversial Yosemite Valley Plan. The Yosemite Fund, a nonprofit organization based in San Francisco, is contributing $8.5 million to the estimated $12.5 project price tag and the National Park Service has contributed $1.3 million from fee demo funds, while fund-raising efforts are expected to top off the pot.
The signing of the document has caused a ripple within concerned circles that is quickly turning into a wave of opposition towards the project. Using public outcry as their leverage, concerned citizens are circulating an Internet-based petition on the web to stop the Lower Yosemite Fall Project. The goal is to reach 5,000 signatures. So far, there are more than 500 comments posted and the numbers grow daily. Among the voices crying out the loudest are those of the indigenous people of Yosemite.
The Yosemite Miwuk people, who were first displaced in the 19th century by the Mariposa Battalion, again in the 1930s by the National Park Service and were later forced to witness further destruction of their culture in the late 1960s when NPS razed the existing village, are adamantly opposed to the project.
In a letter to Superintendent Mihalic, Joe Rhoan wrote,“If Lower Yosemite Fall project is allowed to continue without addressing the concerns of many Indian people, including those people who wish to voice concerns against the continual desecration of Native [American] graves and sacred lands, and all that those words encompass, NPS [National Park Service] will be acting in a manner against your own mission statement, which is to serve and protect the heritage and environment, without desecrating or removing culturally rich areas that we are connected to by blood, spirit and heritage ...