Wildlife Thrive in an Empty Park

How do we imagine a restored Hetch Hetchy?


The Los Angeles Times captured this coyote looking for a meal. The increased obvious presence of wildlife in Yosemite Valley has been widely covered in the media.

Due to the corona virus, I am writing this post from home. All of us at Restore Hetch Hetchy (staff and board) are doing our part to maintain our social distances and limit spread of the disease. I hope you are well, and I look forward to better times ahead. - Spreck Rosekrans

In April 2019, about 380,000 people visited Yosemite. This month, due to the Coronavirus, only a skeleton staff of about 200 people remains in the park.

Not surprisingly, the park's wildlife is less reticent about openly roaming throughout its eponymous valley. It makes one wonder about what they're thinking - what happened to all those people?

The coronavirus is a scary thing, and it's tough for most of us to shelter in place while "essential workers" face additional risks to keep our hospitals running, our grocery stores open and our garbage collected. It's hard to find a silver lining, as we wait to learn more about the dangers of the virus and how we will live for the next year or more until there's a vaccine.

Still, it's nice to imagine wildlife having free reign in Yosemite Valley. Bear, coyotes, bobcats, deer, ravens etc. wander about, foraging and hunting, without the throngs of human visitors.

As much as we love Yosemite Valley, it is often overcrowded. Some of us are lucky to be able to visit during the off-season and/or mid-week. Sometimes we just go elsewhere. Sometimes we might endure the crowds and congestion because the lure is simply too strong or we want to share an experience with friends and family



"Valuing Hetch Hetchy Valley", the report we released last year, analyzed a wide range of potential visitation scenarios, but made no assumptions about any development on the valley floor. (The Executive Summary and Main Report are separately posted online.)

Our feelings about Yosemite National Park overall and especially Yosemite Valley in particular provide insights into how we would like to see Hetch Hetchy Valley managed once it is restored.

Almost everybody would like to see a more natural experience at Hetch Hetchy. There is no doubt, however, that visitors will flock to the valley as it is reborn.

Restore Hetch Hetchy is convinced that the valley can accommodate large numbers of people while providing a visitor experience that intrudes less on wildlife and relies on a bare minimum of infrastructure on the valley floor. When the time comes, there is certain to be vigorous and impassioned debate about how to strike that balance. What a wonderful debate this will be.