A federal district court judge has ordered a halt to a broad slate of renovation projects in Yosemite Valley, stepping anew into a battle over the human imprint on one of America’s most heavily visited cathedrals of nature.
According to a Los Angeles Times report, in a 25-page written ruling, Judge Anthony Ishii in Fresno ordered a halt to nine construction projects in the valley in Yosemite National Park – including roadwork, hotel renovations and new RV sites – that are part of a long-planned $423 million upgrade of long-neglected visitor facilities.
Park officials say the projects are being held hostage by litigation brought by “fringe” environmental groups.
“These are projects the public has told us they want,” said Scott Gediman, a park spokesman.
Greg Adair of Friends of Yosemite Valley said the legal fight is necessary to turn back the clock on environmental degradation while thwarting a shift to upscale hotel rooms, reduction of family camping and prices that could push average Americans away.
“We hope for a park that has meaningful environmental protection and equitable social access,” he said. “What we’ve seen instead is this pandering to commercialism, this rush to do construction and this shortchanging of environmental laws.”
Ishii’s decision, issued Friday, marked the second time in recent years that environmental groups have won court victories to halt the park’s ambitious construction schedule.
In addition to ordering the work stoppage, the judge ordered the park service to attempt for a third time to produce a legally sound management plan for the Merced River, which cleaves the popular, mile-wide valley.
Ishii criticized the park for rushing its most recent evaluation, suggesting such a planning effort should take at least two years. The judge set a hearing Jan. 9 to determine a timeline.