Split wood fence running through a meadow with a cabin and barn in the background
Ackerson Meadow is bursting with life—and now it belongs to all of us.
Robb Hirsch

Yosemite National Park gains a lush mountain meadow

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Ackerson Meadow lies along the western boundary of Yosemite National Park, a bright island of open grass in a sea of shady forest. It’s a gentler landscape than the imposing granite cliffs of Yosemite Valley, a dozen miles to the east—but in many ways it’s just as impressive: at 400 acres, it’s part of the largest ecosystem of its kind anywhere in the Sierra Nevada. And this week, The Trust for Public Land helped add Ackerson Meadow to Yosemite National Park.

The mid-elevation meadow is the largest addition to Yosemite in nearly 60 years—and it’s thriving. “Birds, squirrels, bear sign everywhere, rare plants, and fields full of wildflowers in spring and summer,” says Markley Bavinger, project manager with The Trust for Public Land. “I’ve been all over the Sierra and I’ve never seen a place so rich.”

The wet soils in the meadow provide plenty of water for wildflowers.Photo credit: Robb Hirsch

Why is Ackerson Meadow home to so much life? No surprise, it all comes back to water.

“Ackerson Meadow holds on to a lot of water,” says Yosemite wildlife biologist Sarah Stock. “Insects love wet areas, so they do really well here. Those insects feed spiders, birds, bats, and small mammals, which in turn feed hawks, owls, and coyotes.”

Stock says it’s rare to see so many species in such a small area in the Sierra. Her crew even spotted a pair of willow flycatchers—sparking hope that these endangered songbirds might nest in the park for the first time in more than two decades.

A western wood pee-wee on a branchAckerson Meadow is home to a dazzling variety of wildlife—from insects to songbirds, like this western wood-pewee, to black bears.Photo credit: Robb Hirsch

Though she says Ackerson Meadow is relatively pristine, Stock notes that its history of cattle grazing has contributed to erosion that over time could imperil the meadow’s rich diversity. “Ackerson Meadow is drier today than it probably would be if it weren’t grazed,” says Stock. “And as it dries out, the forest encroaches and the meadow shrinks.”

In 2013, as the Rim Fire blazed through the Sierra foothills, wildlife of all shapes and sizes found refuge in the green heart of Ackerson Meadow: the fire burned all the way around the meadow, but wet soils here helped hold the flames at bay. Today, burn scars mark tree trunks at the meadow’s edge, but a ring of living trees remain—an important source of seeds and shade for the young saplings that will someday replace the burned trees.

Tree trunks with burn scars surrounded by green grass and treesThe 2013 Rim Fire left its mark, but many trees survived and the grasses and wildflowers in the meadow are once again thriving.Photo credit: Robb Hirsch

The Rim Fire highlighted the importance of places like Ackerson Meadow, especially as we face a hotter, drier future. “With climate change, we’re seeing temperatures increasing and snowpack decreasing all across the Sierra,” Stock says. “Meadows are already drying up earlier in the year.” Now that Ackerson Meadow is part of Yosemite, the National Park Service aims to restore the land’s hydrology, shaping the stream flows to allow the meadow to hold on to water longer into the season.

Under the care and protection of the National Park Service, Ackerson Meadow will continue to be a refuge for animals—and people—for generations to come. John Muir, who fought all his life to protect the Sierras, could have been perched on a rock in the middle of the meadow when he wrote, “Yosemite Park is a place of rest, a refuge from the roar and dust and weary, nervous, wasting work of the lowlands … Nowhere will you find more company of a soothing peace-be-still kind.”

We can’t think of a better way to celebrate the recent 100th anniversary of the National Park Service than the addition of Ackerson Meadow to one of America’s most beloved parks. Thanks to the support of people like you, this extraordinary place now belongs to all of us. 

The protection of places like Ackerson Meadow depends on people like you. Join The Trust for Public Land today!

Comments

David
We have visited more than a hundred countries and all the States in the US and Yosemite remains one of, if not the, most beautiful place we have ever been too. It was hard to leave. To say the valley and the meadows were stunning is not an exaggeration.
George Kluber
We need to care for our National Parks with responsible stewardship as well as expand this resource.
Murray Aronson
I like this a lot. I like it when additional lands are added to our national parks. More safe room for all our fellow critters. M/M Bear and other families can have more kids when there's additional land for that needed bedroom. Bravo Trust for Public Land and Ackerson Meadow.
Sally Montgomery
Great news. I question, however, that Muir fought his "entire life" to save the Sierras. Museo
Linda Smigelski
This is happy news since we must preserve as much natural beauty as possible! Too much land is being taken away to building and whatever man-made thing is constructed it can never compete with Mother Nature...she needs our protection as well as all the creatures that live on this Earth.
James Marshall
And the Republicans want to continue selling water to Nestlé's and they want to privatize these public lands in order to sell them off for profit. They also want to mine them for coal for private profit.
Nancy Pitblado
Thank you for working to get this lovely property added to Yosemite. I am delighted to have my contribution used for this!
Joan Van Velzer
I am so happy to hear about Ackerson Meadows being added to beautiful Yosemite National Park, This Park is my all time favorite and always will be, I live near Glacier National Park now and although it is beautiful and less crowded than Yosemite , my Heart is still and always will be with Yosemite. Can you do something to stop the grazing of cattle?? Please do not let them get away with ruining this beautiful meadow, I am more than tired of battling ranchers Politicians, poachers and trophy hunters taking over all our beautiful lands, just for greed. Thank you for the information and beautiful photo's.
sheila young
Happy to see this beautiful addition to Yosemite! A friend & I spent 2 weeks in 2001 doing volunteer work in Yosemite. It was an amazing, educational experience!
Mark Egger
Great news! I was just there this summer, and I can testify to the value of this meadow as rare plant habitat, particularly for species of the Phrymaceae ("monkey-flowers").
Katie Olivas
I have many great memories spent at Yosemite.
Martha
Thank you National Park Service and the Trust for Public Land and all the supporters for this important addition to Yosemite and to this great democratic idea--public land for all to enjoy always.
pam denton
Thank you, all
T0NI MELLO
More effort needs to be given to the problem of cattle being allowed to graze on public lands. It is still happening and the level of corruption in the BLM is just out of hand ! Now they are getting ready to kill 44,000 more MUSTANGS to make room for more CATTLE ! Anyone who really cares about our public lands should look into to what is happening on Nevada public lands, CATTLE, MINING, and FRACKING !!!!!!!!
Rosemary Keough
I agree--one of the most gorgeous places on Earth. Thanks for increasing it!
Gabriel Sheridan
Adding adjoining lands to a designated National Park is one if the finest ways to protect that Park. This meadow should remind us of the horrible loss of Hetch Hetchy valley which protected the same type of terrain. The dam that buries this valley must be taken down. Now!
Mary Grogan
How absolutely wonderful! The more protected land the better. Now take down the dam.
Michelle Maani
I hope that our public lands survive the next election.
Charles Little
It all comes down to knowing the place. I have driven through Ackerson Meadow many, many times during my years working to protect the watershed of the Tuolumne River. I was always saddened to see the negative effects of all the cows in the meadow and I am delighted to learn that they are gone and it will now be added to the Park and protected by the Park Service. Knowing that a particular place that is special to me has been saved by the TPL encourages me to give financial support. Now let's add North Mountain. It was supposed to have been included when the Park was created but lost out to a political trade.

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