Feeling a little crowded these days when you visit Yosemite National Park? California lawmakers want to expand the park to protect habitat.
Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein has introduced a bill that expands Yosemite by about 1,600 acres on the park's western border. The proposed new boundary would include acreage that conservationist John Muir first proposed more than a century ago.
The bill, co-sponsored by fellow California Democrat Barbara Boxer and introduced in the House of Representatives by Jim Costa of Fresno, would allow the National Park Service to buy land from willing sellers. It would include nearly 800 acres already purchased by the conservation group Pacific Forest Trust.
"Yosemite’s popularity is also its greatest challenge," Feinstein said.
She said new development in the western lands adjoining the park would "increase the threat of fire, habitat fragmentation and degradation of creeks that flow into the park."
Owners of land and cabins inside the proposed new boundary lines would not be forced to sell. Congress would have to come up with the money to purchase property from owners interested in selling.
Feinstein said she has bipartisan support on Capitol Hill, as well as from both the Sierra Club and adjacent land owners.
Senator Boxer said the additional acreage would protect "important waterways and natural habitats that make Yosemite such a pristine treasure for Californians to visit.”
President Lincoln first set aside the area for conservation in 1864.
John Muir took then-President Theodore Roosevelt camping in Yosemite in 1903. Roosevelt said it was "like lying in a great solemn cathedral, far vaster and more beautiful than any built by the hand of man."