A rich, bucolic meadow that’s home to rare wildflowers, endangered animals, and a landscape unlike anything else in the Sierras is now part of Yosemite’s grandeur.
America’s most renowned national park grew by 400 acres this month in the largest addition to Yosemite since 1949.
The additional acreage is known as Ackerson Meadow. The wildflower and wetland habitat is a lush counter to the sprawling rugged landscapes of Yosemite.
Ackerson lies on the western edge of the park, 170 miles east of San Francisco.
Though the meadow constitutes just 3 percent of the park’s total area, it is home to one-third of all plant species now within Yosemite’s borders.
Because the meadow holds so much water, it attracts a rife ecosystem of bugs, birds, and large predators like hawks, coyotes, and bears. It is also home to endangered species like willow flycatcher songbirds and the Great Grey Owl, the largest owl in North America.
Perhaps most importantly, the damp soil and abundant plant life provided refuge for all wildlife threatened by the 2013 Rim Fire that blazed across the Sierra foothills. That fire, the third largest in California’s history, destroyed more than 250,000 acres. It encompassed Ackerson, but could not penetrate its lush forest edges.
Great Big Birthday Present
The Trust For Public Land donated the meadow to the National Park Service as part of its yearlong centennial celebration. The TPL purchased all 400 acres from private land owners earlier this year for $2.3 million.
The Yosemite Conservancy, National Park Trust and American Rivers, and private donors also pitched in.
The gift is a long time coming. Ackerson was originally planned to be part of Yosemite when its borders were being drawn in 1890.
One U.S. Congressman spoke out after the gift was announced, and questioned the legality of gifting a wildlife preserve without Congressional approval.
Rep. Rob Bishop (R) of Utah, Chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, cited the law that federal acquisitions of land require a decision by Congress.
According to NPS spokesman Jeffrey Olson, Bishop misread the law. He said no oversight is necessary for a donation of land, only the purchase of land using federal funds.
Bishop also fought the recent declaration of national monuments in various states and criticized the President’s ban on uranium mining near the Grand Canyon.
The Utah representative appears to be the voice of Tuolomne County ranchers and loggers who fought the addition of Ackerson Meadow to Yosemite’s protected lands. They claimed the area has been used for cattle grazing and timber production for over a century.
“When you take land and put it into the National Park Service, they don’t do anything with it,” Randy Hanvelt, a Tuolumne County supervisor, told the AP. “It’ll be fenced off from grazing.”
Bishop noted that he does not want the land returned, but will pursue an official inquiry into the donation.
We think the addition of Ackerson Meadow is another big step in preserving and growing America’s wild spaces. We’re happy to be part owners and stewards of the new public meadow.