Court Rejects Challenge To Giant Sequoia National Monument
Timber Industry and Off-Roaders Fail to Invalidate Designation
October 2nd, 2001
Michael Sherwood, Earthjustice, 415-627-6700
Nathaniel Lawrence, Natural Resources Defense Council, 360-570-9309
Carla Cloer, Tule River Conservancy, 559-781-8445
Joe Fontaine, Sierra Club, 661-821-2055
San Francisco, CA-- A federal judge in Washington, DC threw out a
lawsuit Friday seeking to dismantle the Giant Sequoia National
Monument, which was created by President Clinton to conserve nearly
330,000 acres of forest ecosystems and the last unprotected giant
sequoia groves in the Sierra Nevada. The suit was filed by timber and
off-highway vehicle interests whose damaging uses of the lands now
inside the monument are eliminated or restricted by the designation.
Strongly reaffirming the President¹s power under the Antiquities Act to
reserve public land for the purpose of protecting objects of historical
and scientific interest, the court held that plaintiffs could
demonstrate ³no set of facts² that the President had violated the law
in establishing the monument. The court also firmly rejected
plaintiffs¹ other assorted challenges to the monument, including
allegations that it violated the National Forest Management Act, the
National Environmental Policy Act, and the Administrative Procedure
"The ruling is a clear victory for the environment and sends a strong
message to those lodging such spurious challenges to well-established
law. As our judge recognized, the Antiquities Act had been challenged
six times before and courts have upheld its use each time," said
Earthjustice attorney Michael Sherwood.
Earthjustice represented a coalition of environmental groups who had
sought to intervene in the suit, which was brought by Sierra Forest
Products, Sierra Nevada Access Multiple-Use and Stewardship Coalition,
Tulare County, and other groups. "We are extremely pleased that the
judge saw that the case had no merit and decided it should go no
further," Sherwood added.
The 327,769-acre national monument, in the southern Sierra Nevada,
protects 34 of only 70 remaining groves of giant sequoia. These groves
are the last remnants of a species that has been a part of the North
American landscape for millions of years. Giant sequoia are the largest
trees on earth, and are among the oldest. Individual trees can live
more than 3,200 years, and preserve in their annual growth rings a long
record of climate change, drought, and fire regimes.
Because the big trees are a dependent part of the larger forest
ecosystem, the monument also includes the wide areas within each
grove¹s watershed, including an elevation range of 7,000 feet, habitat
for sensitive species like the Pacific fisher and great gray owl, and
multiple Native American archaeological sites. In achieving this
protection, the monument designation eliminates only the most damaging
former uses of the area. Though timber harvest will no longer take
place and OHV use will be reduced within its boundaries, the monument
provides for recreation of all kinds, maintains private property rights
and existing special use permits, and will allow for fuels reduction
under a new management plan.
"The fundamental purpose of the monument designation was to provide
protection to the giant sequoia, as well as to the overall ecosystem in
which these trees are found," said Jay Watson, Regional Director of The
Wilderness Society. "The giant sequoias are the sentinel trees of the
Sierra Nevada -- California's Range of Light, and they deserve complete
"A few years of timber harvest can do damage to a sequoia grove¹s
watershed and surrounding environment that takes a lifetime to repair,"
said Joe Fontaine, vice-chairman of the Sierra Club¹s Sequoia Task
Force. "We¹ve known for years that in the long run it¹s ineffective to
protect individual trees while the forest around them is stripped bare.
Sequoia depend on a healthy forest ecosystem."
Carla Cloer, a founder of the Tule River Conservancy and chair of the
Sequoia Task Force, agreed, "Sequoia ecosystems include the physical
environment and all living organisms found where giant sequoia grow,
from soil and groundwater to bacteria, chickarees, and the big trees
themselves. The monument designation is the first management scheme
that truly recognizes these relationships."