Yosemite is one of the crown jewels of the U.S. National Park Service.
It's also — pardon my French — très grand! (Very big!)
Clocking in at over 1,000 square miles, Yosemite takes up a massive chunk of California. It's so big you could fit over 63 million Cheez-It crackers in it (according to some math I did myself). I don't know why you would, but you could. Before you attempt it though, consider this:
400 acres are about to be added to Yosemite, and the new land is awesome in nearly every way.
It's the park's biggest expansion since 1949, and the land, named Ackerson Meadow, previously belonged to private owners Robin and Nancy Wainwright.
Ackerson Meadow was historically used for logging and cattle grazing. The land was ripe for development.
It's like a Disney movie — picture a sprawling, pristine meadow filled with an abundance of happy, doe-eyed creatures. Now imagine a mean ol' land developer building a big strip mall on top of it. That's what could've happened to Ackerson Meadow.
Luckily, things never got that far. The Wainwrights, who recognized the natural beauty of their land, decided to sell it to the Trust for Public Land, a nonprofit conservation group, for $2.3 million. The trust then donated the land to Yosemite.
The Wainwrights reportedly lost a couple hundred thousand dollars on the sale but knew it was the right decision regardless.
"To have [the land] accessible by everyone to me is just a great thing. It was worth losing a little bit of money for that," Robin Wainwright explained.
The protection of the National Park Service is also a big deal, as the meadow is home to several endangered or protected species.
Including this stern-looking great gray owl.
Great grey owls are huge, badass birds that hunt gophers with their bare talons and have been known to live up to 40 years. Males impress lady owls by kissing food into their mouths, a beautiful and delicate process that I would like to henceforth refer to as "gopher-frenching."
In California, they're an endangered species. In fact, the vast majority of great gray owls live in Yosemite, which means the newly added land will serve as further protected habitat.
Yosemite might be huge, but the 400 acres will still add some diversity to the park's already stunning landscape.
Ackerson is largely made up of wetlands and a grassy meadow, which is quite different from Yosemite's iconic granite cliffs.
Different landscapes mean biodiversity, and biodiversity means a healthier ecosystem as well as a host of benefits for the planet Earth, which is where we live!
A win like this for Yosemite is truly a win for all of us.
Pending a small legal snafu, Ackerson Meadow will be added to Yosemite National Park, and everyone will benefit.
Not only will a beautiful crop of land receive well-deserved protection and conservation from the National Park Service, but it'll be open to the public, which means we'll all get to enjoy it. You can even go try to spot one of those owls if they're not busy gopher-frenching potential mates.
Protecting that land will have a long-lasting effect on the environment writ large too, as protected forests help reduce greenhouse gases.
People come from all over the world to see national parks and marvel at their natural beauty. The land owners could've sold their magnificent plot for a hefty profit, but instead they decided to share it with the world.
In that sense, we all profit.