Mariposans for Environmentally Responsible Growth (MERG)
was founded in 1989 from an ad hoc group concerned
about the impacts of a
cyanide heap leach mining operation on the verge
of the Merced River. A cyanide roaster, an extremely
toxic mechanism, was planned. MERG gathered facts
about the risks of the project and disseminated them
to the public and the county officials. The mine did
not go forward.
Bylaws for the new non-profit organization were
developed in 1989, and incorporation was completed
in that year. A reference library was established.
As an organization, a goal analysis was completed
and the vision of growth management and
environmental protection for Mariposa County
emerged. Memberships were established in the
Chamber of Commerce,
SC legal defense fund, and the
Mineral Policy Center. The practice began of
inviting guests and monitoring community
activities. Board members began attending
seminars. MERG organized and conducted a mining
conference in Coulterville
The organization formalized its status by covering
meetings of the
Board of Supervisors, the
planning commission, the
utility district, and the
LAFCo. This allowed us to take the pulse of the
In 1990, we discovered that the
Brown Act had been misinterpreted in Mariposa
County. We had it corrected so that the public was
allowed to speak at the start of the supervisorial
meetings on items on or off the agenda.
In 1990 two MERG board members were appointed to the
community-wide Economic Development Committee to
study industrial and commercial zoning, as well as
home industry. Recommendations were made in a report
Also in that year, MERG participated in the Whitcomb
study which revealed that maintenance of rural
character and the environment were the most
important issues for the citizens of the county. A
later repeat study verified the findings.
We strongly supported the designation of Highway 140
as a Scenic Highway, and the new
Mariposa Town Specific Plan.
During this same year, MERG studied and expressed
concerns about the Mariposa Vista project. Board
members worked with the Air Quality Officer in
regard to dust and smog issues in Mariposa County.
Non-voting membership reached 105 individuals in
In MERG’s annual newsletter discussing activities
during the prior 1991, the organization vowed to
continue working on County policies that will have a
long-term positive effect on Mariposa’s natural
During 1991, MERG spent hours educating itself
regarding the ramifications of the proposed
Redevelopment Plan for the Mariposa Town Planning
Area, and planning how best to effect changes that
would protect citizens and save the County dollars.
Ultimately, this redevelopment plan was abandoned
In 1992 a section of Hwy 49 North on either side of
Bear Valley was adopted for upkeep... a practice
that continues to this day.
In 1993, a study was presented to the count, which
failed to gain backing, but was a significant MERG
effort. It was "The Outline for a Comprehensive,
Community-Determined Master Plan for
Resource-Protective Development in Mariposa
County." This focused on natural resource
preservation, including air, water, soil,
vegetation, wildlife and open space. The second was
"Suggested Policies and Development Standards for
Specific Plans and Large Developments". An update
to the Mariposa County General Plan was urged. MERG
recommended a linkage between tourism and the
1993 brought the Las
Mariposas project, a giant residential and
commercial development next to the airport.
Insufficient water, airport viability, and traffic
impacts were the main concerns which defeated the
plan. Twelve MERG members worked over the 1993-1995
timeframe to inform the Board of Supervisors on the
many topics at issue in this development proposal.
The project was disapproved in 1994.
bird and wildflower compilations were done and
made available to residents and visitors. MERG
published an extensive booklet covering various
This year also found MERG Board members serving on
MPUD and LAFCo Boards. MERG research into county
jail operations resulted in cost savings to Mariposa
MERG discovered the political reporting
In 1994, MERG made another push for a General Plan
update. Its work on mining law reform since 1993
culminated. Reform failed by one Senate vote.
Sierra Nevada Alliance was formed in this year.
MERG was an early member.
1995 found MERG releasing 8 specific recommendations
for reviewing and considering large developments
based on lessons learned from Mariposa’s experience
with Las Mariposas. The Board provided input on the
Saxon Creek project and working to obtain clean
water grants for Mariposa. Board members
participated in a mining conference in Salt Lake
In this year, MERG requested that the Board of
Supervisors’ agenda be released on Tuesday, the week
before a meeting. The request was met.
In 1996, Ralph Bayless retired as MERG Chair.
During this year, MERG Board was vocal on several
issues, including permit streamlining,
decertification of redevelopment, reporting of toxic
releases by miners, U.C. Merced planning. Board
members attended a
Planning and Conservation League (PCL) meeting
in Catheys Valley, “Solutions for a Sustained
In 1997, MERG participated in forming a coalition
Anenberg Foundation Rural Challenge,
Mariposa County Public Works,
Parks and Recreation, High School Earth Club,
and Soils and Conservation to begin the Mariposa
A second coalition was formed this year of MERG,
Audubon and the Sierra Club working
with CEQA experts Shute, Mihaly law firm. This effort was to
remind the county Board of Supervisors that a CEQA
Environmental Impact Report was necessary to proceed
with industrial zoning planning.
MERG Board member, Shirley Schmelzer developed and
published a birding guide for Mariposa County that
is still in use today. It is available at the
In 1998, MERG Board, in coalition with Audubon and the Sierra Club began
protesting development/construction project in Yosemite National Park because no environmental
assessment or EIS was completed. This included a
redo of the Yosemite Road and decrease of parking
from 9000 spaces to 3000 space. Letters were
submitted to Interior Secretary Babbitt, urging a
carrying capacity study.
In 1999, because the Park Service initiated a series
of development projects without appropriate
National Environmental Policy Act and
Wild and Scenic Rivers Act procedures, it was
necessary to resort to a lawsuit to get the NPS
to develop the twelve year delayed Merced River Plan,
which the courts deem still invalid. Litigation is
In this same year, SNA provided MERG a grant to
support its on-going review and comments on the
Mariposa County General Plan Update. In addition,
MERG actively engaged in review and comment on
several projects, including efforts to write a
zoning ordinance for industrial development without
benefit of the new general plan;
Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System (YARTS)
development; Snow Creek Bridge; Fish Camp Silvertip
impacts; Yosemite/gateway communities’ issues; and,
the ongoing need for carrying capacity studies for
Yosemite National Park.
Kunstman, in 2000, developed a paper
“The Devastation Framework” in response to the
2000 Sierra Nevada Forest Plan Amendment (also known
as the "Conservation Framework").
Throughout 2000, MERG Board members participated in
General Plan Workshops. They evaluated YARTS
impacts and costs; evaluated the
2000 census which indicated a rapid pace of
growth in Mariposa County; provided input on the Joe
Howard Street bridge; developed a Ralph Bayless
award; commented on
U.C. Merced impacts and the need for a more
appropriate site; and evaluated a proposal for a
John Muir Corridor.
In this year, MERG decided that a web site would be
In 2001, the Yosemite NEPA/WSRA lawsuit was
pending. MERG provided comment to the Board of
Supervisors on reapportionment of supervisorial
districts required by new census information. MERG
engaged the assistance of a professional consultant
to help with review of updated general plan
The Yosemite lawsuit was appealed to the 9th
Circuit County in 2002 by MERG and
Friends of Yosemite Valley (FoYV). MERG also
reviewed and provided input on several local
issues: updated General Plan – impacts on land use;
Silver Tip development and major changes to the Fish
Camp Specific Plan; the County Landfill EIR;
recycling planning; and, Mariposa stop signs, for
which MERG completed a study of traffic accidents,
which showed that stop lights would not be helpful
at 49N and 140.
In 2002, MERG questioned the choice of the new
composting facility at the land fill, mainly due to
the untested technology, the cost and the short
In 2003, the 9th Circuit Court finds in
favor of the MERG/FoYV appeal on the Yosemite
lawsuit. MERG continued input on several issues,
including the general plan update (which went into
limbo on resignation of county planning director),
Silver Tip development, Fish Camp venue for Board of
Supervisors’ meetings. In this year, MERG opted to
sponsor a Mariposa County High School student to a
In the same year, due to MERG’s urging, agendas of
the Board of Supervisors’ meetings became available
on the County’s website and the details in the
Supervisors’ Packet for each meeting are available
to the public at the Mariposa Library.
In mid-2004 a decision was made to rename the
organization to Mariposans for the Environment and
Responsible Government as this would be more
reflective of our activities in recent years. The
organization continued its efforts to assure that
the general plan update reflects the rural Mariposa
In 2005, MERG effectively formed a
“Keep Mariposa Rural Coalition” through a
brochure mailer to households throughout the
County. There were 350 replies. MERG advised the
County Planning Commission and the Board of
Supervisors of its interest in having a rural
environmental alternative. MERG publicized ways in
which the public could help with this effort. MERG
hosted guests and consultants seeking advice on
influencing the general plan update. Board members
cooperated in developing and disseminating a
recycling information list. Comments were submitted
on creation of the Sierra Nevada Conservancy.
In 2006, the 9th Circuit Court again
ruled in favor of MERG/FoYV in their lawsuit against
Yosemite National Park.
Regarding the General Plan update effort, MERG Board
members distributed brochures and made Power Point
presentations for community groups.
During this year, a special MERG committee was
formed to support community planning efforts in
Catheys Valley and Hornitos, in response to
development interests requesting that the Board of
Supervisors consider rezoning to 1 acre or smaller
parcels in the Catheys Valley area. The special
committee organized a petition drive for signatures
for a parcelization moratorium to protect Catheys
Valley and Hornitos from becoming a suburb of
Merced, as development in that community reaches its
peak. Although the moratorium request failed to get
a public hearing, the Board committed to completing
the General Plan update post haste.
The hazard of continuing to issue
Certificates of Compliance on historical parcels
was an on-going discussion with County boards and
MERG had a booth at the Mariposa County Fair and the
Hornitos Flea Market to provide information to the
public and to encourage their participation on the
General Plan update.
Throughout late 2006, MERG organized and sponsored a
speakers’ series on water and land use issues. The
urgency of the water issues for Mariposa County,
both quantity and quality, were highlighted.
MERG actively campaigned against the passage of an
eminent domain initiative (Prop 90) that would have
had devastating impacts on land use law. In this
instance, Mariposa County voted overwhelmingly
against the measure.
The last months of 2006 were devoted to influencing,
with the help of our board, attorney, professional
planner and the support of Sierra Nevada Alliance,
the eventual adoption of
an updated general plan. This effort resulted in
a fourth “rural environment” alternative, a
significantly lower population target of 26,000 over
the life of the plan, and shared input that
prevented resort commercial uses from being
permitted in the Agriculture-Exclusive Zone.
2007 was primarily devoted to urging implementation
of the General Plan through revisions of Titles 16
and 17 of the County Code. MERG efforts focused on
issues of water quantity and quality and spurring
interest in an
integrated regional water management project,
along with examining the need for more responsible
and responsive county government.
After a ten year effort, MERG won the top award in
2007 for its outstanding contributions to the
Mariposa General Plan Update. The award was given
by the Sierra Nevada Alliance.
During 2008, as it celebrated its 21st
year, MERG was actively involved in helping define
the scale of agritourism suitable to Mariposa
County. Efforts continued to support the
finalization of the Catheys Valley community plan –
now scheduled for 2009. Efforts to promote a
water study similar to the Fresno County foothills
and Madera County continued, along with efforts
to promote integrated regional water management
planning(IRWMP). Meetings were held with SNC early
in 2008. In late 2008, SNA organized a meeting in
Mariposa for stakeholders, urging action on an IRWMP.
MERG Board members urged the Mariposa County
Resource Conservation District to sponsor this
project. Agreement was reached within RCD to move
forward with a grant application for launch funding
from SNC to create an organization that will carry
out a planning grant application effort.
v During this year, Secretary Betty Boykin retired from MERG after 20 years of splendid service..
Additionally, in 2008 we joined Earth Justice in
filing a suit against the county for its breach of
the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)
concerning the Hazel Green project. The proponent
desired to gain access to Highway 120 from their 80
acre inholding by an easement across Yosemite
National Park Service land. The access is illegal.
In 2009 the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of MERG and Friends of Yosemite Valley after ten years of litigation over protection of the Merced Wild and Scenic River and Yosemite Valley. MERG participated in settlement negotiations with the National Park Service and agreements were developed to implement the finding of the Court. We believe this process will be effective to achieve the goals for which we undertook the lawsuit in 1999. We are closely monitoring this process to ensure that desired results are indeed achieved. For the NPS information on this topic, please click here.
For notable activities during the past year we urge you to read the 2010 newsletter and the 2011 newsletter on this site.
The history of MERG demonstrates that the
organization has been devoted to creating
“partnerships” in the community which assisted in
successful outcomes on several issues. This is most
recently demonstrated in the revision of the
Mariposa County General Plan. This updated
General Plan, considered the constitution of the
County for the next 15 to 20 years, was adopted by
the Board of Supervisors in December of 2006. Major
implementation efforts, specifically bringing the
zoning ordinance and subdivision ordinances into
compliance, are still ahead. All citizens of
Mariposa should become involved.
Get informed and make your voice heard.