Fresno Bee Newsroom Blog

Backlash against new Merced River Plan in Yosemite

Yosemite National Park has extended the deadline for public comment on the embattled Merced River Plan , but not for the 90 days sought by some business leaders and a federal lawmaker.

The park has extended the public comment period from April 18 to April 30 so more people can have their say. Park leaders say they already have 25,000 comments.

In the last several weeks, there has been a backlash over the environmental protections in the plan, which is the third proposal that the park has written in the last dozen years or so.

The previous renditions failed to pass muster in federal court, partly because they didn’t specify a limit on visitors to the river in the heart of Yosemite Valley.

The new proposal — three years in the making and thousands of pages long — limits visitors to 19,900 on busy days and specifies removal of  some facilities, such as the Curry Village ice skating rink.

Yosemite leaders released the plan for public comment in January, adding 40 days to the usual 60-day comment period. Now they’ve added another 12 days.

Some business and tourism leaders outside the park had complained about the plan limiting recreation. They asked for 90 more days to comment.

In the last week, they got support from Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Elk Grove. McClatchy reporter Michael Doyle in Washington, D.C., posted a twitter item last week about it, linking to McClintock’s letter to Yosemite about it. He said he is troubled by the proposed closure of  “bike rental facilities, snack stands, swimming pools, tennis courts, retail stores and horse stables.”

In joining the campaign to extend the comment period, McClintock says:

“It defies logic that NPS is proposing to close these facilities not because they degrade the Merced River, but instead because in NPS’s eyes, these longstanding facilities do not benefit the River.  What about the benefits that the American public will lose under NPS’s proposal?”

Political Notebook: Democrats continue to lead Republicans in Fresno Co. voter registration

Fresno County Democrats are continuing to lead rival Republicans in signing up new voters, data released today by the Secretary of State’s Office shows.

The new voter registration numbers — the last that will be released before Tuesday’s election — show there are 6,396 more Democrats than Republicans in Fresno County.

In raw numbers, it is 164,663 Democrats to 158,267 Republicans.

Last month, the Democrats led by 2,635, and in May, it was 2,700.

Also showing significant growth were those voters who are declining to join a political party, or are registered with one that isn’t recognized by the state, such as the once-relevant Reform Party.

In May, these people with “no party preference” were at 61,869. Last month, it was 62,311. And now, it is 67,417.

The latest numbers show the Republican Party in Fresno County continuing to struggle on the registration front, and marks a continuing reversal of fortune for the local GOP, which a decade ago was riding high.

In 2000, Republicans in Fresno County overtook Democrats in voter registration totals for the first time in anyone’s memory. That lead peaked in 2004 with a GOP advantage of more than 24,000 voters.

But Democrats worked to close the gap, and by the middle of 2010 had retaken the lead. They haven’t relinquished it since, and now appear to be growing it.

A stark example of that is looking back to this point four years ago, when President Barack Obama was seeking his first term in office. At that point, Republicans still held a lead of more than 10,000 voters.

Since that point, Democrats in Fresno County have added more than 11,200 voters, while Republicans have added just 4,800.

It turns a 2004 quote from Michael Der Manouel Jr. on its head. “Countywide,” the current chairman of the Lincoln Club of Fresno County said, “I don’t believe (Democrats) will ever catch us again.”

The City of Fresno also remains solidly Democratic, with 21,350 more registered voters than Republicans.

While Republicans lag in Fresno County, they are continuing their domination of rival Democrats in the rest of the central San Joaquin Valley — Tulare, Kings and Madera counties.

In Tulare, there are 63,809 Republicans to 49,151 Democrats. In Kings, it is 21,812 Republicans to 17,068 Democrats. And in Madera, 24,152 Republicans to 18,301 Democrats.

As for the local congressional races, Democrats are dominating voter registration in the two westside districts — the 16th, where Fresno Democrat Jim Costa is seeking reelection, and the 21st, which is an open seat featuring a battle between Republican Assembly Member David Valadao and Fresno Democrat John Hernandez.

At the same time, Republican voters rule in the eastside districts currently held by GOP incumbents Devin Nunes, Kevin McCarthy and Tom McClintock.

Of particular interest is the Hernandez-Valadao clash, because political prognosticators have dubbed Valadao the clear favorite even though Republicans lag in registration. Hernandez has vowed to get Democrats to the polls.

The registration numbers are through Oct. 22.