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Yosemite Conservancy goal: Connecting people with park
El Portal Elementary School students perform a welcome song at the launch celebration for Yosemite Conservancy. - photo by Photo courtesy of Al Golub of Yosemite Conservancy

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK  – Yosemite Conservancy, a nonprofit organization benefitting Yosemite National Park and its millions of visitors, was launched last week with commendations by public officials, songs by local school children and cheers of people who love the park.

“Providing for Yosemite’s future is our passion,” said Mike Tollefson, president of Yosemite Conservancy. “This is now the only philanthropic organization dedicated exclusively to the protection and preservation of Yosemite National Park and enhancement of the visitor experience.”

The new organization was created following the merger between the Yosemite Association and The Yosemite Fund, two nonprofits with more than 100 years of combined experience to support the park.

“Yosemite is America the beautiful,” said Congressman George Radanovich (R-Mariposa), who read an entry to be included in the Congressional Record praising the organization. “The work of Yosemite Conservancy is critical to supporting stewardship of the park, the crown jewel of the National Park System, so that it is preserved and protected for generations to come.”

Yosemite National Park Superintendent Don Neubacher said, “Yosemite Conservancy offers people the opportunity to form enduring connections with Yosemite through its many unique programs. Support of the Conservancy funds trail repairs, habitat restoration, outdoor programs, volunteering, scientific research, and other essential works that might otherwise not happen.”

Tollefson highlighted a $1 million effort to support Youth in Yosemite programs as an example of the broad reach of the new organization to preserve, protect and enhance the visitor experience. Funding for Youth in Yosemite programs goes to repair trails, improve campgrounds, preserve images from Yosemite’s archives, and expand educational programs and exhibits. More than 40 projects and a variety of outdoor, volunteer and arts programs are planned in 2010. Yosemite Conservancy works closely with the National Park Service to implement its work.
Tollefson said the merger creates a larger and stronger base of park supporters, adds expertise and resources to improve overall capabilities, and expands opportunities for supporters to participate in park programs. The merger was completed in January 2010 and the two groups began the process of creating Yosemite Conservancy.

The Association was established in 1923 as the nation’s first “cooperating association” with the National Park Service offering outdoor programs, volunteering and a wealth of visitor services. Since 1988, the Fund has focused on major trail and other rehabilitation projects, habitat restoration and scientific research raising more than $55 million for 300 projects in the park such the restoring the approach to Yosemite Falls, improving 100 miles of trails in the park, and protecting threatened bighorn sheep.

“We knew that as partners we were achieving great things in the park every year, but we also recognized that together we could do so much more,” said Tollefson. “Yosemite Conservancy aims at creating new benchmarks in innovation and quality with every project that it completes. Large or small, every project will set a new standard of excellence.”

He said the best place to contribute and learn more is at or by calling 1-800-4-My-Park.