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Yosemite National Park Releases Environmental Assessment for Hiking to Half Dome

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Date: January 24, 2012

Half Dome Trail Stewardship Plan Draft Environmental Assessment Available for Public Review

Yosemite National Park announces the availability of the Half Dome Trail Stewardship Plan Draft Environmental Assessment for public review. Public comments on the plan will be accepted from today, Tuesday, January 24, 2012 through Thursday, March 15, 2012. The Half Dome Trail Stewardship Plan was developed to address crowded conditions, visitor experience, and safety on the Half Dome Trail and encompasses the two mile section from the John Muir Trail to the summit of Half Dome.

The Preferred Alternative is to keep the cables in place with their current configuration and implement daily use limits of 300 people per day. This alternative provides the best combination of accessibility to the summit, free-flowing travel conditions on the cables, which improves safety, and low encounter rates on the trail, similar to use levels found on other high-use trails in Yosemite's wilderness and other wilderness areas. The park implemented an Interim Half Dome Cables Permit System for the 2010 and 2011 hiking seasons. An Interim Half Dome Cables Permit System will also be implemented during the 2012 hiking season.

In 1964, Congress passed the Wilderness Act, creating the National Wilderness Preservation System. As such, approximately 95% of Yosemite National Park , including Half Dome and the Half Dome Trail, is designated Wilderness. Consequently, all of the action alternatives were developed to improve the wilderness character of the trail.

The Environmental Assessment (EA) presents environmental analysis of five alternatives, including the Preferred Alternative. Alternative A, the No Action Alternative, would retain the cable system and continue managing the Half Dome Trail as it was through 2009, with no permits required. This action violates National Park Service (NPS) policy and will not be considered. Under Alternative B, the park would retain the cable system and implement day-use limits through a permit system allowing 400 hikers per day. Under Alternative C, the Preferred Alternative, the park would retain the cable system and implement day-use limits through a permit system allowing 300 hikers per day. Under Alternative D, the park would retain the cable system and implement day-use limits through a permit system allowing 140 hikers per day. Under Alternative E, the park would remove the cable system from Half Dome.

The park considers all public comments in making a decision, which will be documented in the Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI), if appropriate. If approved, the plan will be implemented for the 2013 hiking season. Hiking permits for Half Dome will be allocated through an online reservation system and/or a lottery.

The public review and comment period begins with release of the EA. The document is available for electronic review at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/halfdome. Please submit written comments electronically through the website, or join us at the park's monthly Open House at the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center Auditorium on Wednesday, February 29, 2012, from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., to discuss the plan with park staff. Hard copies or CDs of the EA may be requested by emailing yose_planning@nps.gov. You may also mail your comments to P.O. Box 577 Yosemite, California 95389, c/o Superintendent, ATTN: Half Dome Plan; or send a facsimile to (209) 379-1294.

Did You Know?

Upper Merced Watershed

The Merced River above Nevada Fall and South Fork Merced River above Wawona, numerous small meadows and adjacent riparian habitats occur. Owing their existence to the river and its annual flooding, these habitats help support eight special status animal species: harlequin ducks, black swifts, bald eagles, osprey, willow flycatchers, yellow warbler, western red bat, and Sierra Nevada mountain beaver.