Although meadows only make up 2% of Yosemite’s landscape, they are extremely valuable habitats for plants and animals. One acre of meadow can produce up to two tons of food and nutrients per year – which means a lot of productive areas for animals such as raptors, deer and songbirds.
Meadows are not just beautiful places – they are vital for properly functioning ecosystems. Meadows act as natural water purifiers, filtering sediment from runoff so that nearby streams run clean and aquatic life thrives. A large percentage of Yosemite’s plant and animal species depend on these relatively small areas, making restoration efforts crucial to maintaining the park’s biodiversity.
Located between the Merced River and Curry Village, Stoneman Meadow plays an instrumental role in the Valley’s ecological health by providing habitat and regulating water flow. A 250-meter abandoned asphalt path was removed in 2006, allowing natural hydrologic processes to resume while promoting biological health and aesthetic value.
Thanks to Conservancy support, deep channels that once drained the wet meadow for grazing were filled, allowing natural hydrological processes to resume. With the return of natural hydrology, a more diverse and native plant community has taken root, thus improving habitat for native wildlife species.
With Conservancy support, old asphalt roads, parking pads, and exposed pipes and concrete footings were removed and natural contours re-established. As a result, the river can move more within its natural floodplain, allowing for the expansion of sensitive wetland habitat.
Crane Flat Meadow
Volunteer groups removed 400 cubic yards of asphalt along an old railroad grade between Tuolumne Grove and Big Oak Flat Road, improving wildlife habitat and eliminating an unnecessary human footprint from the park. Work crews re-contoured the meadow to match the surrounding topography which allowed for the restoration of natural hydrological processes and the return of wetland plant species.
Completed in 2008, this Conservancy-funded project restored approximately 2,000 square feet of impacted wet meadow at Lukens Lake, a popular hiking destination about a mile off the Tioga Road. Wilderness character was enhanced and hydrological processes restored by removing human-caused impacts, such as social trails.