Fresno Bee Newsroom Blog

After hantavirus deaths, NPS should review tent cabin changes, report says

Federal investigators have recommended a National Park Service review of any design changes in tent cabins after three deaths last year during a hantavirus outbreak at Yosemite National Park.

Several hantavirus cases were diagnosed after people spent the night at Curry Village in newer tent cabins with a double-wall construction. Investigation showed infected mice nested between the walls.

The tent cabins were shut down last year after the outbreak was discovered.

There have been reports that the tent cabins were torn down and replaced with the old, single-wall version. But Yosemite officials were not immediately available to confirm the reports.

The Interior Department’s Office of Inspector General investigated last summer’s outbreak and last week reported that park officials responded appropriately in accordance with policy.

At least eight of the nine tourists who fell ill stayed in the newer tent cabins, which are operated by the private concessionaire, Delaware North Parks and Resorts.

The concessionaire had added rafters and wall studs to the tent cabins. Park Service policy did not require park leaders to approve the design changes because they were considered routine maintenance.

Yosemite visitor totals dropped slightly last year

Looking over the visitor totals for Yosemite National Park last year, I realized there was news that I had not written — there were fewer people.

In 2011, 4,098,648 visited Yosemite, according to the National Park Service. In 2012, the figure was slightly down — 3,996,017.

Even so, 2012 will go down as the park’s third biggest year since 1996.

Yosemite’s totals fell off noticeably in 1997 after the big January flood inundated Yosemite Valley, closing the park and triggering years of lower numbers. The total didn’t climb back over 4 million until 2010.

How about this year? The big crowds get bigger when the famous waterfalls are huge in May and June. A few snowstorms and a fatter snowpack could make that happen.

Grant Tree still No. 2, based on trunk size, top scientist says

Don’t hurry to change Wikipedia rankings for the largest trees in the world. Turns out there’s more than one way to measure a giant sequoia.

The federal government still considers the General Grant Tree the second-largest tree in the world, despite new  research showing The President tree has grown into the No. 2 spot.

The research by Stephen Sillett, a redwood researcher from Humboldt State University, looks at the whole tree. By that measure, the Grant Tree is No. 3 behind The President Tree.

But size rankings in the federal government are traditionally based on trunk size. The hulking General Sherman Tree is No. 1.

And, based on trunks, the Grant Tree is still No. 2, says Nate Stephenson, a research ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey who has studied giant sequoias for over 30 years at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.

The parks and Giant Sequoia National Monument have most of the remaining natural groves of giants sequoias in the world. By sheer volume, they are the largest trees in the world.

Stephenson, who is considered among the top scientific authorities on the tree, says:

“Because branch volume is quite difficult to measure accurately, size rankings for the biggest sequoias
usually have been based upon trunk volume only. By trunk volume, the General Grant Tree is
second largest and the President Tree is the third largest. If you include branches, the order switches.”