In a world plagued with news of shrinking habitats that lead to declines in animal populations and biodiversity, the news that Yosemite National Park in California has just been expanded by 400 acres is most welcoming.
Ackerson Meadow, a vitally important habitat home to endangered plants and species and consisting of 400 acres of grassy meadows, wetlands, and pine forests, was donated to the National Park Service by the Trust for Public Land, who purchased it from private owners for $2.3 million.
“Donating the largest addition since 1949 to one of the world’s most famous parks is a great way to celebrate the 100th birthday of our National Park Service – and honor John Muir’s original vision for the park," said Will Rogers, president of the Trust for Public Land in a statement. "We are delighted, and proud to make this gift to Yosemite, and the people of America.”
The meadow, which runs along the park’s western boundary, is home to the endangered great gray owl and southern willow flycatcher, as well as bears, deer, coyotes, and at least 100 different species of plants, according to park officials.
“The generous donation of Ackerson Meadow will preserve critical meadow habitat that is home to a number of state and federally listed protected species,” said Yosemite National Park Superintendent Don Neubacher.
It was bought from private owners Robin and Nancy Wainwright, who had owned the land since 2006 and reportedly passed up a lucrative offer from a developer to build a resort there. Mr Wainwright told the Associated Press he often saw bears in the meadows and owls flying over fields of wildflowers and didn’t want this experience to only be available to those who could afford to visit a resort.
“To have that accessible by everyone, to me, is just a great thing,” Wainwright said. “It was worth losing a little bit of money for that.”
While this new addition is actually less than 0.05 percent of the park’s total area, it is the largest expansion of the park in 70 years, taking it up to nearly 750,000 acres. Meadows make up only 3 percent of Yosemite, but are estimated to house about one-third of plant species in the park, so the inclusion of Ackerson Meadow is especially welcome.
“The original Yosemite boundary plans of 1890 included Ackerson Meadow, so it is exciting to finally have this important place protected,” said Yosemite Conservancy President Frank Dean.