Yosemite granted $15 mil­lion for projects to re­store, im­prove park

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - Front Page - BY CAR­MEN GE­ORGE cge­[email protected]­nobee.com

Dogs trained to smell moun­tain lion poop. Study­ing fun­gus on cliffs to pro­tect bats. Rein­tro­duc­ing en­dan­gered bighorn sheep and frogs. Keep­ing old ap­ple or­chards alive in Yosemite Val­ley.

These are just a few of dozens of projects hap­pen­ing be­hind the scenes in Yosemite Na­tional Park.

Yosemite Con­ser­vancy, the park’s main phil­an­thropic part­ner, do­nated $15.3 mil­lion this year to make these projects and oth­ers pos­si­ble. The projects aim to re­store wildlife and habi­tat, im­prove vis­i­tor ex­pe­ri­ences and bol­ster ed­u­ca­tion.

Here’s more in­for­ma­tion about some of these on­go­ing projects:

Sav­ing na­tive frogs and toads: Yosemite is work­ing to pro­tect three at-risk am­phib­ian species: The Yosemite toad,

Sierra Ne­vada yel­low-legged frog and Cal­i­for­nia red-legged frog. Around 200 adult red­legged frogs were re­leased in sev­eral Yosemite Val­ley sites re­cently. Frogs fit­ted with ra­dio trans­mit­ters will be re­leased for the first time in Yosemite in June.

Pro­tect en­dan­gered bighorn sheep: En­dan­gered Sierra Ne­vada bighorn sheep are be­ing rein­tro­duced, too. More sheep will be added to a herd that was re­leased in Yosemite in 2015 fol­low­ing a cen­tury-long ab­sence in the park. GPS col­lars and field sur­veys will track the sheep through­out the year.

Cel­e­brate climb­ing his­tory: The park has agreed to its first per­ma­nent rock climb­ing ex­hibit, an ef­fort led by the Yosemite Climb­ing As­so­ci­a­tion. It will be lo­cated in the Yosemite Val­ley Vis­i­tor Cen­ter. Fundrais­ing is un­der­way by Yosemite Con­ser­vancy and the Amer­i­can Alpine Club to make it hap­pen.

Pro­tect big wall bats: Yosemite sci­en­tists are study­ing whether Yosemite’s bats are at risk of con­tract­ing white-nose syn­drome, which has killed mil­lions of bats. The fun­gus prompts bats to emerge early from hi­ber­na­tion and can cause

them to starve. There is con­cern climbers could spread the fun­gus into caves on Yosemite’s big walls, where bats roost dur­ing the win­ter.

“Sci­en­tists will use tem­per­a­ture and hu­mid­ity data to iden­tify po­ten­tial fun­gal hotspots on rock walls,” the con­ser­vancy said. “That cru­cial knowl­edge will in­form strate­gies for pre­vent­ing WNS from tak­ing hold in the park, such as ed­u­cat­ing climbers about how to avoid spread­ing the deadly fun­gus.”

Build the Wah­hoga Round­house: The Wah­hoga Vil­lage, the last Na­tive Amer­i­can set­tle­ment in Yosemite Val­ley, was re­moved by the Park Ser­vice by 1969. It is be­ing re­built just west of Camp 4 us­ing tra­di­tional materials and tech­niques. Its round­house will be used by Yosemite’s na­tive com­mu­nity for cul­tural and spir­i­tual cer­e­monies.

Build stew­ard­ship through bilin­gual out­reach: Span­ish­s­peak­ing rangers will be sta­tioned along pop­u­lar Merced River beaches in Yosemite Val­ley this year to share “ba­sic con­ser­va­tion ethics and safety tips” to help vis­i­tors who can’t speak English.

Keep Yosemite mov­ing, ex­plore travel pat­terns: Mil­lions of peo­ple visit Yosemite ev­ery year, which means traf­fic can be bumper-to­bumper in Yosemite Val­ley dur­ing the busy sum­mer sea­son. The park is study­ing traf­fic pat­terns to cre­ate strate­gies aimed at re­duc­ing con­ges­tion in the park and im­prov­ing the vis­i­tor ex­pe­ri­ence.

Sur­vey moun­tain lion pop­u­la­tions: Re­searchers will use trained dogs to find moun­tain lion scat and col­lect ge­netic sam­ples “with­out dis­rupt­ing the li­ons or their habi­tat.” Re­sults will in­form ef­forts to pro­tect the species in Yosemite and through­out Cal­i­for­nia.

Pre­serve his­toric or­chards: A pro­fes­sional or­chardist will work with park staff this year to res­cue five old or­chards in Yosemite Val­ley, Wa­wona and El Por­tal that were first planted in the 1800s by Yosemite home­stead­ers. They are be­ing pre­served for their “his­tor­i­cal and horticultu­ral value.”

Pro­tect pere­grine fal­cons: These rap­tors that nest on tow­er­ing Yosemite Val­ley cliffs neared ex­tinc­tion just a few decades ago. They have re­bounded in Yosemite thanks to nationwide re­cov­ery ef­forts and bans on DDT pes­ti­cides. The park sur­veys pere­grine breed­ing sites and uses that data to im­ple­ment tem­po­rary clo­sures of climb­ing routes near nest­ing ar­eas to pro­tect the birds.

A longer list of Yosemite projects and how you can help is avail­able at yosemite­con­ser­vancy.org.

“With four mil­lion vis­i­tors each year, Yosemite needs to be nur­tured to re­main a na­tional trea­sure,” Yosemite Con­ser­vancy Pres­i­dent Frank Dean said. “Restor­ing trails and habi­tat, pro­tect­ing vul­ner­a­ble wildlife and in­spir­ing peo­ple to take care of the nat­u­ral world are a few ex­am­ples of how donor sup­port pro­tects the park and en­riches lives.”

STEVE BUMGARDNER Yosemite Con­ser­vancy, Spe­cial to The Bee

En­dan­gered Sierra Ne­vada bighorn sheep are be­ing rein­tro­duced and stud­ied in Yosemite Na­tional Park, sup­ported by do­na­tions from the Yosemite Con­ser­vancy. GPS col­lars and field sur­veys will track the sheep through­out the year.

ERIC PAUL ZAMORA Fresno Bee file

Al­li­son Ker­per pho­tographs the sights as tourists stream into Yosemite Val­ley in Au­gust 2018. The park is study­ing traf­fic pat­terns to cre­ate strate­gies aimed at re­duc­ing con­ges­tion.

DARIN OSWALD Idaho States­man file

Among the projects the Yosemite Con­ser­vancy grant will fund are ef­forts to pro­tect pere­grine fal­cons and at-risk am­phib­ian species like the Cal­i­for­nia red-legged frog.

ERIC PAUL ZAMORA [email protected]­nobee.com

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