updated 4/21/2004 11:29:52 AM ET 2004-04-21T15:29:52

A federal appeals court Tuesday blocked a federal plan for Yosemite Valley, heeding critics who said the plan had more to do with development than restoration in the national park.

Included in the $441 million plan is a project to replace employee housing, lodging and campsites destroyed when the Merced River crested its banks in 1997, said Greg Adair, founder and co-director of Friends of Yosemite Valley.

That project is already under way, but will be put on hold by Tuesday’s court ruling, he said. It will take at least a year to redraft the plan and hold proper public hearings, estimated Adair, whose organization sued and won the order along with Mariposans for Environmentally Responsible Growth.

But park spokesman Scott Gediman said the service hopes to resolve the issues quickly once the case is back before a federal judge in Fresno.

“We are disappointed in this order, and feel these projects are all projects that are protecting the resources of Yosemite National Park and providing for a better visitor experience,” Gediman said.

The plan sets guidelines for recreation, restoration and development along an 81-mile stretch of the pristine river, one of 160 nationwide protected under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

Adair and the lawsuit asserted that what the park service presented as a protection plan “is actually a development plan.”

“There’s a tremendous amount of logging going in the valley now,” Adair said. “That has to stop. Those people have to go home. There has to be a legal and comprehensive management plan for the Merced River before that can proceed.”

A federal district judge approved the plan in March 2002, but in October the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled the plan invalid because it drew an improper river boundary and did not properly take into account visitor capacities.

The appeals court ruled Tuesday that a district judge erred in not stopping the project while the service revises or prepares a new plan.

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