Updated February 4, 2005: Until recently, all, press reports
and statements from Congressman Radanovich has stated that he intended to re-introduce
the bill discussed below. Newspaper accounts now state that Congressman Radanovich
is now stating that as of February 4, 2005, there is only a "50-50" chance
that he would reintroduce the LeConte Memorial Lodge bill this year. As long-time
Sierra Club and Audubon activist Brock Evans has said, conservation concerns
require "eternal vigilance." Accordingly, we maintain the following
information for your background on this issue, dating from 2003 and 2004.
Congressman Radanovich Proposes Removal of the Historic LeConte Memorial Lodge
U.S. Rep. George Radanovich (R-Mariposa), the congressman who represents the geogrpahic area including Yosemite National Park, who also happens to theair the congressional National Parks Subcommitee, is pushing legislation to remove the LeConte Memorial Lodge, a designated National Historic Landmark, from Yosemite National Park. On October 29, 2003, the House Resources Committee of the U.S. Congress actually passed this legislation. Floor action on the bill could happen any time in 2004. The proposal to remove the century old LeConte Memorial Lodge, one of four National Historic Landmarks located in Yosemite Valley has left many with a sense of unbelief. Why would anyone want to remove a 100 year old historic landmark that contributes a public service in Yosemite National Park? Congressman Radanovich told the Fresno Bee: "I don't really have any objections to LeConte, except for the Sierra Club's opposition to the campgrounds."
Press calls proposal "childish petulance unbecoming the dignity of a congressman"
The controversy relates to a National Park Service plan, reached after several years of public comment, to not replace the Lower River and Upper River campgrounds that were wiped out in the 1997 flood. The NPS Yosemite Plan contemplates more campgrounds to be located instead outside the Valley. The Sierra Club does support more campgrounds outside the Valley, because neither the flood zone nor the rock fall zone are safe or appropriate places to re-establish campgrounds. The NPS has already identified places where campgrounds can be located in less sensitive areas, some within the Valley, some outside. In any case, the campground plan isn't the Sierra Club's plan; it's the National Park Service plan, so attempting to punish the Sierra Club for this reason doesn't make much sense.
Radanovich's bill calls LeConte Memorial Lodge "a private special use." The truth of the matter is that the LeConte Memorial is a publicly-owned history museum and library, operated by the Sierra Club on behalf of the National Park Service. The LeConte Memorial Lodge was built by the Sierra Club as a memorial to Muir's close friend and colleague, Joseph LeConte. The Lodge was built in 1903 in Yosemite Valley to commemorate the life of LeConte, a beloved professor at the University of California at Berkeley and a founder of the Sierra Club. LeConte Lodge predates both the inclusion of Yosemite Valley into Yosemite National Park in 1906 and the creation of the National Park Service in 1916. It has served
as an information center and library, open to the public, since its
dedication in 1904. The Sierra Club and its first president, John Muir,
were instrumental in working to include Yosemite Valley in Yosemite
National Park and in the creation of numerous other National Parks
including Sequoia, Grand Canyon and Mount Rainier.
National Historic Landmark Status
Because of its connection with Joseph LeConte and its unique
architectural characteristics, LeConte Memorial Lodge was designated a
National Historic Landmark under the Reagan administration in 1987.
According to the Park Service's National Historic Landmark web page:
"National Historic Landmarks are nationally significant historic places
designated by the Secretary of the Interior because they possess
exceptional value or quality in illustrating or interpreting the
heritage of the United States."
LeConte Memorial Lodge is one of only five buildings given this designation in Yosemite National Park, and one of three such buildings in Yosemite Valley itself.
Ongoing Historical Value
During the 1920s, renowned landscape photographer Ansel Adams served as
caretaker of Leconte Memorial Lodge each summer for several years.
Adams later renewed his relationship with the Lodge when his exhibit,
"This is the American Earth", was first displayed at the Lodge in 1955. The exhibit later became the first book in the award-winning Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series in 1960.
By preserving and celebrating part of Yosemite's history, open for all
to enjoy, we believe the LeConte Memorial Lodge is providing a valuable
service to the American public, at a time when federal government leaders ask private groups to make more of such contriutions to support our public lands.
What You Can Do
The full U.S. House of Representatives will likely consider H.R. 2715, the bill containing the provision to remove the historic LeConte Memorial from Yosemite in early 2004. Wherever you live in the USA, please contact your Representative and ask him or her to oppose H.R. 2715:
- Insist that the removal of LeConte Memorial Lodge be deleted from the bill. This beloved Memorial should not be used as a political hostage.
- Oppose re-opening campsites within the flood-zone, but favor expansion of more campsites outside the flood-prone Yosemite Valley.
- Oppose the bill's prohibition against expanded shuttle bus systems.
- Oppose the bill's requirement to construct the "maximum amount of parking" at Camp 6.
Contact your Congressman via the House of Representatives Website: http://www.house.gov/writerep/. You may also call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 to be connected with your Representative's office. You can also download our PDF alert handout and pass along the message.
Vindictive Radanovich playing politics with lodge
By Carl Pope, Sierra Club Executive Director
Fresno Bee November 17, 2003
It's sad that Rep. Radanovich has chosen to pick a
fight with the Sierra Club rather than address
important stewardship issues in one of America's most
treasured National Parks. The historic and beloved
LeConte Memorial Lodge should not become a political
Alert Handout (PDF)
Read the Editorials
Read the News Stories
Read H.R. 2715 (Library of Congress search engine)
Information and Donations
For more information, during the summer contact Sierra Club LeConte Memorial Lodge
Curator, P.O. Box 755, Yosemite, CA 95389, (209) 372-4542.
During the winter, contact LeConte Lodge Committee Chair, Harold Wood, P.O. Box 3543,
Visalia, CA 93278; phone: (559) 739-8527; e-mail: email@example.com
Tax deductible donations to support the new exhibits and renovation efforts of the
LeConte Memorial can be made to "Sierra Club Foundation," marked for the LeConte Lodge Fund.
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