On Wednesday, officers from the Yosemite National Park in California announced the park would be expanded to almost four hundred acres, its biggest expansion in seven decades.

The development works will include a grassy meadow and wetlands; all surrounded by pine trees and will become the home to the park’s endangered wildlife. The area designated for the expansion was bought from private owners through the Trust for Public Land for $2.3 million.

This undated photo provided by The Trust for Public Land shows Ackerson Meadow in Yosemite National Park, Calif. Image Credit: Robb Hirsch/The Trust for Public Land via AP

This land, known as Ackerson Meadow has always been used for cattle grazing and logging. However, it has also been habitat for endangered species such as the great gray owl, the largest owl in North America.

The Ackerson Meadow, for everybody

The meadow used to belong to Robin and Nancy Wainwright since a decade ago. The pair bought it off and according to Wainwright, they lost a “few hundred thousand dollars” when they rejected an offer to create a luxury resort. Wainwright claims he often saw the emblematic owls and bears strolling in the lands, and though it would be wrong to restrict the area only to those with enough money to stay in such a place.

“To have that accessible by everyone to me is just a great thing. It was worth losing a little bit of money for that” claims Wainwright. The forthcoming expansion is the biggest the park has seen since 1949. So far, Yosemite has nearly eight hundred thousand acres, as stated by park spokesman Scott Gediman.

Gediman has also said that he expects almost five million visitors this year, which is an all-time record, perfect for the park’s 126th anniversary. These tourists have to pass Ackerson Meadow on their way to the Hetch Hetchy reservoir. As Yosemite Conservancy’s President Frank Dean says, the Meadow will finally complete the park’s original plans, which date to 1890, honoring John Muir’s vision.

However, some locals, including Sean Crook, the president of the local Tuolumne County Farm Bureau fear the expansion will hurt private business, losing the meadow “real value.”  Also, the bigger influx of visitors will probably raise crime rates, bring more car accidents and greater environmental damage.

Obama, the environmentalist

Obama plans to leave office as one of the US environmental presidents, following Roosevelt steps. It was Roosevelt who went on a trip with John Muir back in the early twentieth century and decided to preserve the lands as the Yosemite National Park.

So far, Obama has conserved  548 million acres during his administration, double the 230 million preserved by Roosevelt. Other important conservation efforts made by Obama include a trip to Midway Atoll in Hawaii, which he designated as “part of the world’s largest marine conservation area.”

He has also protected more than 90,000 acres in a new National Park in Maine’s Katahdin woods in the midst of an ongoing controversy, with many republican senators and governors, such as Paul R. LePage claiming this was a “liberal move” pushed by “rich, out-of-state” people against the Maine inhabitants and giving the “federals” completely control over their lands.

Sources: Christian Science Monitor