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Yosemite National Park announces the signing of the Half Dome Trail Stewardship Plan Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI). This document records the decision of Yosemite National Park to adopt a new day-use permit program for the Half Dome Trail which includes continued use of the Half Dome cables. Hiking to the top of Half Dome is one of the most popular hikes in Yosemite National Park. The iconic granite monolith, at 8,842 feet above sea level, attracts people from all over the world who attempt to climb to the summit. Most visitors ascend Half Dome via the cables, which are typically in place from mid-May through mid-October.
In 1964, Congress passed the Wilderness Act, creating the National Wilderness Preservation System. In 1984, approximately 95% of Yosemite National Park, including Half Dome and the Half Dome Trail, was designated as Wilderness through the California Wilderness Act of 1984. The Selected Action reduces congestion and improves conditions for public safety, while providing a range of wilderness experiences.. Under the Selected Action, Yosemite National Park will retain the cable system and implement day-use limits through a permit system, managing for a target of 300 people on the Half Dome Trail per day.
The Selected Action is generally the same as the Preferred Alternative in the Environmental Assessment (EA) that was released for public review in January 2012. The park received a total of 1,649 comment letters during the 52-day public comment period. A wide range of comments were received: some urging the park to reconsider installing a third cable, some supporting the Preferred Alternative, and others supporting the removal of the cables altogether. Commenters sought clarification on visitor use studies, safety measures, commercial use, wilderness character, and permit allocation. There are some clarifications and corrections to the EA based on public comment, mainly in the area of commercial use. These corrections are included in an Errata to the EA.
Applications for permits to hike the trail are available from March 1 through March 31, 2013. The park will allocate permits through a preseason lottery, a two-day in advance lottery, and as part of the Wilderness Permit process. Details regarding the lotteries and the wilderness process can be found at the park's website at www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/hdpermits.htm. The lottery will be conducted through www.recreation.gov.
The FONSI and errata sheets completing the decision-making process are available online at: www.nps.gov/yose/parkmgmt/hdp_information.htm. Requests for hardcopies or CD-ROMs of the FONSI, available on a limited basis, can be submitted to: Superintendent, Yosemite National Park, and Attn: Half Dome Trail Stewardship Plan, P.O. Box 577, Yosemite, CA 95389.