Perhaps no national park stirs in its legion of aficionados stronger passion, emotional connection and devotion than Yosemite. By anyone's measure a special place, the park draws each year millions of visitors from around the world -- more than half of them repeat visitors -- to marvel at its iconic features and enjoy a host of outdoor experiences.
Count Barbara Moritsch, formerly a National Park Service resource management specialist in Yosemite, among the park's most passionate advocates, although she has expressed her dismay with park planning and management decisions in her recently published memoir, "The Soul of Yosemite: Finding, Defending, and Saving the Valley's Sacred Wild Nature."
Moritsch will be in Oakhurst Thursday, Nov. 8, to present a talk and read excerpts from her book at the monthly program of the Yosemite Area Audubon Society. The presentation will be held at 7 p.m. at the Oakhurst Methodist Church on Crane Valley Road (426).
As a key member of the Yosemite staff developing management plans for Yosemite Valley and the Merced River, a designated Wild and Scenic River, between 2002 and 2005, Moritsch acquired an insider's view of park management and the decision-making process. She addresses management decisions she believes have degraded natural resources in the Valley and articulates a vision that would restore the Valley's wild nature, recognizing the need to balance visitor use with protection of the park. She urges the park service to focus on the basics -- protecting natural beauty and wildness and promoting Yosemite's role as a world model for wildness.
"I have a vision -- a new, old vision -- for Yosemite Valley," Moritsch said. "It's new in that it is a product of the 21st century, and is unlike any plan that has guided park managers to date. It's old because similar visions have been developed and proposed since 1864, when the Valley became a park. It's new because unlike other similar visions that for one reason or another never gained traction, implementation of this vision, or one similar to it, is absolutely necessary for the ecological health and well-being of Yosemite Valley."
Moritsch's park assignments as an ecologist and interpretive naturalist also took her to four other national parks -- Sequoia, Kings Canyon, Death Valley and Point Reyes National Seashore between 1982 and 2006. She holds Bachelor's and Master's degrees in natural resource planning and interpretation, and environmental science.
Like all Audubon programs, Moritsch's presentation is free to the public, although donations to defray program costs and to support Audubon's local activities are welcome. Refreshments will be available.
Birding trip Nov. 24
The society will also offer its monthly birding trip Saturday, Nov. 24. Participants will meet at the Mariposa Rest Area adjacent to the history center on Highway 140 at 8 a.m. to carpool to the McSwain Forebay and Lake McClure. The trip is free to the public. Bring binoculars, field guides, snacks, lunch, beverages and wet-weather gear. Dress in layers and wear comfortable walking shoes.
The mission of the National Audubon Society and area chapters, the namesake of noted 19th-century naturalist and bird painter John James Audubon, is to conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the earth's biological diversity.
Details: (209) 742-5579, yosemiteaudubon.org for additional information about either the Nov. 8 program or the Nov. 24 birding trip.