Last Month in Yosemite: June 2016

Last Month in Yosemite: June 2016

A recap of things we saw, heard and did in the park last month, straight from our El Portal office to you! In June, we headed out to the high country for a weekend wildlife survey, welcomed western pond turtles back to Yosemite Valley, celebrated the anniversary of the Yosemite Grant Act, and more.

A recap of things we saw, heard and did in the park last month, from our El Portal office to you.

Yosemite National Park biologist Crystal Barnes searches for signs of endangered Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep. Photo: © Yosemite Conservancy.


• Our project coordinator hiked out toward Washburn Lake, near the headwaters of the Merced River, to help with one of several surveys this season focused on the endangered Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep that were released into the Cathedral Range last year with support from our donors. In addition to searching for signs of bighorn predators, the surveyors picked up radio signals from two sheep, and had the rare but memorable chance to spot one: a 10-year-old ram, posing beside a juniper on a rocky cliff. Check out this blog post to read more about the survey.


Young students joined rangers to help release western pond turtles in Yosemite Valley. Photo: © Al Golub.


• While bighorn crews searched for signs of endangered sheep in the high country, local elementary school students stuck to lower elevations to help restore another long-lost species: the western pond turtle, which has been absent from Yosemite Valley for 50 years. With help from rangers, the students released six turtles in the Valley. Biologists will use data from the turtles' radio transmitters to learn more about the species' habitat preferences. By bringing a total of 100 turtles to the Valley over the next 8 years, scientists aim to establish a self-sustaining population.


President Barack Obama delivered a speech in Yosemite Valley during his family's visit to the park. Photo: © Yosemite Conservancy.

• On June 17, President Obama and his family arrived in Yosemite to spend the weekend celebrating Father's Day and the impending 100th anniversary of the National Park Service (coming up on August 25). The historic occasion marked the first Yosemite visit by a sitting U.S. president since 1962.

In addition to speaking about conservation, climate change and the importance of our public lands, the president joined First Lady Michelle Obama to hand out park passes to fourth graders, one of the signature elements of the White House's Every Kid in a Park initiative. The Obamas also had the chance to meet representatives of the Yosemite Leadership Program, a youth program our donors support, including ranger Alejandra Guzman, who was hired to work in the park full-time after completing the program, and Jessica Rivas, a UC Merced student ranger who works at the on-campus Wilderness Education Center. We'll be sharing Ale and Jessica's thoughts on the blog later this month — stay tuned!


• In other Youth in Yosemite news, 12 teens headed to the park for the Adventure Risk Challenge summer course, an immersive, 40-day program that started on June 21. This year's course includes three backpacking trips, rafting on the Merced River, rock-climbing, poetry-writing and mentoring from YLP students. As they gain confidence, leadership and academic skills, the participants will have a chance to pass their learnings on as mentors for middle school students. For more on ARC, visit the program's website and read our blog post!

Spotted owl. Photo: © Kurt Ongman.


• As days lengthened toward their summer solstice peak, Yosemite's owl crews continued to range through boulder-strewn forests at dusk in search of their study subjects: great gray and spotted owls. As darkness spreads through the trees, the field technicians mimic owl calls and wait for the birds to reply, collecting data that will be used to help scientists better understand how factors such as wildfires and competing species affect the park's owl populations.


Ranger Shelton Johnson portrays Sgt. Elizy Boman in "Yosemite Through the Eyes of a Buffalo Soldier." Photo: © Keith Walklet.

• We'll end with a couple of historical notes. On June 26, ranger Shelton Johnson returned to the Yosemite Theater to reprise his role as Sergeant Elizy Boman. Through a film and live performances, Shelton takes audiences back in time to see the park through the eyes of Buffalo Soldiers, members of the all African-American army units created by Congress 150 years ago; they served as rangers in Yosemite and other parks.

The Yosemite Grant Act, courtesy of the Library of Congress (image has been altered for this use).

And on the last day of the month, we celebrated the 152nd anniversary of the Yosemite Grant Act, signed by President Abraham Lincoln on June 30, 1864. That groundbreaking legislation set aside land for preservation and public use for the first time in our nation's history.

Here's a snippet:

"Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That there shall be, and is hereby, granted to the State of California the 'cleft' or 'gorge' in the granite peak of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, situated in the county of Mariposa, in the State aforesaid, and the headwaters of the Merced River, and known as the Yo-Semite Valley ... And be it further enacted, That there shall likewise be, and there is hereby, granted to the said State of California the tracts embracing what is known as the 'Mariposa Big Tree Grove' ..."

In short: Lincoln put California in charge of managing Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove. Nearly half a century later, in 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt signed a bill that made those two remarkable places part of the federally protected Yosemite National Park, which had been established in 1890. To learn more, watch the "Yosemite Grant" episode of Yosemite Nature Notes.

As we jump into July, summer is in full swing! Our naturalist-led kid-friendly and grown-ups-only campouts are around the corner,  people are taking in the high country scenery while exploring restored trails around Tenaya Lake, and crews are hard at work in Mariposa Grove, forging ahead with the multiyear effort to protect the giant sequoias and create an improved visitor experience.

Thanks for reading!


Yosemite Insider