Scenic Vista Management Plan

View of El Capitan completely obscured by trees in left photo; on right, view of El Capitan and Meadow area
Views of El Capitan before and after managed scenic vista clearing in Yosemite Valley.


Nearly five million visitors come to Yosemite National Park each year to see its natural wonders and scenic grandeur. The breathtaking scenery is a key reason Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove were the first scenic areas designated by the federal government for public benefit in 1864.

When this plan began there was no consistent process to prioritize vistas for management, and the lack of a comprehensive effort had allowed many vistas to remain obscured. Past vista management has reestablished scenic vistas at a rate of about three vistas per decade. In addition, the 1980 Yosemite General Management Plan called for the creation of a vista management plan. The development of a framework for evaluating and prioritizing vista management actions will ensure that the natural and cultural resources and values of Yosemite National Park remain unimpaired.

The Scenic Vista Management Plan is being implemented to reestablish and maintain Yosemite National Park's iconic views, vistas, and discrete lines of sight that are obscured by vegetation growth. When the park was originally set aside, vegetation was much more open, with unblocked views and open meadows. American Indians burned Yosemite Valley meadows specifically to increase the productivity of native grasses, forbs, and woody plants for food, basketry, and other aesthetic and cultural purposes. Open oak woodlands allowed for easy viewing of granite walls and waterfalls in Yosemite Valley. Black oak acorn is still a vital food source to the traditionally associated tribes of Yosemite. The mix of meadows with low and high density forests throughout the park was maintained by anthropogenic (human-caused) and natural (unplanned ignition) wildfires that burned in mosaic patterns. Over time, with the cessation of regular burning when the park was established, the views filled in. While fire has returned to Yosemite Valley with aims of restoring meadows, oak woodlands, and vistas, fire is insufficient to fully restore many of the iconic views.

The Scenic Vista Management Plan provides a systematic program for documenting, protecting, and reestablishing Yosemite’s important vistas, consistent with the natural processes and human influences that created them. The goals of this plan are to:

  • Re-establish and maintain important historic views;

  • Develop an objective process for selecting and ranking vistas for treatment;

  • Develop target conditions and identify appropriate vegetation management actions to reestablish scenic vistas;

  • Reestablish scenic vistas, whenever practicable, by restoring natural species composition, structure, and function to systems, using traditional American Indian vegetation management practices, including hand pulling and fire.

This planning effort was initiated through a public scoping process in 2009 and through an evaluation of an environmental assessment was finalized in 2011 with a Finding of No Significant Impact.




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Last updated: June 30, 2022

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