Last Year in Yosemite: 2016

A Yosemite ranger leads more than 100 participants on a walk through Yosemite Valley as part of the Junior Ranger Day activities in April 2016. Photo: Courtesy of NPS

Above: Yosemite's Junior Ranger program in action (one of many donor-funded grants in 2016).

 

Happy New Year! Thanks for reading our recap of 2016 and helping us celebrate the difference our donors made in Yosemite last year.

We started 2016 on a festive note: On New Year's Day, Conservancy President Frank Dean joined the National Park Service for the Rose Parade in Pasadena. After Tweeting a few behind-the-scenes photos, he hopped on the restored Wawona stage coach to ride along the route and kick off the NPS's centennial year.

Given that milestone anniversary, 100 was a much-discussed digit for public lands in 2016 — but today, we're focusing on other important figures from last year. Here are just some of the ways you made a difference in Yosemite, by the numbers:

 2 new detections of the rare Sierra Nevada red fox, thanks to motion-activated cameras in the northern wilderness. Both images of the threatened nocturnal mammal were captured in March, at around midnight. 

A Yosemite ranger, assisted by some budding biologists, prepares to release a western pond turtle in the Merced. Photo: Al Golub.

▪ 5.8 percent decline in the number of emergency response operations per 100,000 visitors, thanks in part to the volunteer Preventive Search and Rescue program, which completed a record 37,000 contacts. 

▪ 10 western pond turtles and 2,000 California red-legged frog tadpoles released along the Merced River, as part of a continuing effort to restore rare reptile and amphibian species in the park. 

▪ 13 student rangers at the UC Merced Wilderness Education Center led 31 Yosemite field trips; five were hired for seasonal positions in Yosemite; and one led a program for fourth graders (and took a selfie with President Obama) during the first family's June visit to the park.  

▪ 18 Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep now live in the Cathedral Range, where the addition of five rams in November brought the herd total to 16 adults (six male, 10 female) and two young ewes. The overall species population has more than quadrupled since it was listed as federally endangered, growing from about 125 individuals in 1999 to more than 600 today.

▪ 22.5 acres of high-elevation habitat treated for invasive plants, such as velvet grass and dandelion, with help from 125 volunteers. Here's how one of those volunteers explained the importance of that effort:

"When we fight invasive species, we are fighting for diversity. We are making a judgment that we want our home to be one of many special places on this earth that is beautiful because it is composed of so many unique and different pieces. ... As the climate warms, delicate alpine regions are put at greater and greater risk for the spread of invasive species. On the small scale, yes, we were weeding. On a larger scale, I saw everything that was at stake.” — Richard Thaxton, Student Conservation Association intern

A 2016 CCC crew member splits a boulder while working on trails in Yosemite's backcountry. Photo: Courtesy of NPS.▪ 24 California Conservation Corps members worked on nearly 90 miles of trails in Yosemite, Echo and Pate valleys; in Wawona and Hetch Hetchy; and along the Lyell Fork of the Merced. By the end of their 5-month season, the two crews had left their mark in 666 square feet of rock wall, 1,431 feet of riprap, and numerous waterbars, retainers and causeways. The experience had left a mark on them, too. See how they changed

"The CCC offers more than just personal development. It creates life-long environmentalists. Yosemite is a big place, yet it can only be maintained by the combined efforts of individuals.  ... The backcountry program creates more and more individuals each year who will return to the world and continue to practice good environmental ethics." — Reni Truesdell, 2016 CCC participant

▪ 97 teens explored Yosemite through 5-day WildLink expeditions, while six of that program's alumni met with 20+ park professionals during a two-week "Career Connection" experience. Other Youth in Yosemite Programs forged new junior rangers, helped middle schoolers discover nature through photography, placed college students in summer internships, and more. 

▪ 114 soil cores taken in Tuolumne Grove, where scientists were studying the conditions that help sequoia seedlings thrive. In nearby Merced Grove, volunteers naturalized "eco-graffiti" (tree carvings). To the south, crews continued restoration work in Mariposa Grove, and a dendrochronologist decoded a cross-section of an 805-year old sequoia, which will be part of new educational exhibits in the grove.

▪ 400 acres of protected habitat added to Yosemite, with the purchase and donation of Ackerson Meadow in September.

A juvenile great gray owl spotted in a tree in 2016. Photo: Courtesy of NPS.▪ 600+ owl detections recorded by bird researchers. Most were of two special-status birds (the great gray and California spotted owls), but the crew also documented other native species, such as the northern pygmy and flammulated owls, and an invasive one (barred owl).

▪ 2,054 songbirds recorded at Yosemite's long-running research stations. Commonly spotted birds included orange-crowned warblers, dark-eyed juncos and song sparrows. The team also documented Pacific wrens, golden-crowned kinglets, Cassin's vireos, and a (second) GPS-tagged black-headed grosbeak, among many others.

When not educating visitors through the Ask a Climber program, climbing rangers patrol Yosemite's walls. Here, Brandon Adams cuts away abandoned rope near Leaning Tower. Photo: Courtesy of NPS.

▪ 6,000+ materials added to the NPS online catalog, thanks to a project to modernize the Yosemite Research Library. Down the stairs from the library, the Yosemite Museum celebrated its 90th anniversary with a special exhibit: Why Yosemite Collects.

▪ 22,170 visitors took advantage of the Ask a Climber program near El Capitan. Rangers and volunteers answered classic climbing FAQs, but also went beyond the nuts and bolts of scaling a granite cliff, diving into the ecology of the vertical environment:

"Yosemite’s walls appear to the uninitiated eye as places impossible for life to prevail. ... However, approach the rock and you will find caves, chimneys, and cracks that delve down deep. There are nutrients, and there is water. From amphibians to trees, birds to lichens, life flourishes on the big walls of Yosemite." — Brandon Adams, Yosemite climbing ranger

What a year — and that's just a small piece of it! 2016 was also brimming with Outdoor Adventures, art and theater; with hard-working Conservancy volunteers; and with special events, including a BloomBlitz that documented more than 250 plant species, free nature walks on "Green Friday" for REI's #OptOutside initiative, and, of course, the NPS Centennial, which we celebrated with partnership awards for Yosemite's Kimball Koch and our own Olotumi Laizer, and by toasting the 100-year mark at an event organized by our friends at Anchor Brewing and Huckberry. 

Thank you to all of our donors, partners, volunteers and program participants for your support in 2016. Here's to another year of making a difference in Yosemite!

Yosemite Insider