Strategic Assessment: Sierra Watch Releases Report on White Wolf Development Project

Massive development threatens everything we love about the Tahoe Sierra. And now there’s a new project in town.

Today we released our Sierra Watch White Wolf Strategic Assessment, a detailed look at proposed development on the White Wolf property between Alpine Meadows and Squaw Valley – and what it would mean to our mountains.

There’s more in the release below, and you can find the full report at: https://www.sierrawatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/Sierra-Watch-White-Wolf-Strategic-Assessment-July-2021.pdf

This is how we do it; this is how we stand up for our Sierra and turn development threats into conservation opportunities. Thanks for standing with us.

 

Sierra Watch Logo

Contact: Tom Mooers, Sierra Watch: (530) 265-2849 x200

For immediate release:

 

July 27, 2021

SIERRA WATCH RELEASES ASSESSMENT OF PROPOSED TAHOE DEVELOPMENT

Conservationists: White Wolf resort presents clear threat to Tahoe wilderness and mountain values

 

Tahoe City, Calif. – Sierra Watch today issued a detailed assessment of new development proposed for the 275-acre White Wolf property between Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows in the Tahoe Sierra, including land designated for National Wilderness.

“The findings of our assessment are clear,” said Tom Mooers, Sierra Watch Executive Director.  “The iconic White Wolf property is an important part of our Tahoe landscape, and proposed development is a threat to our shared mountain values.”

White Wolf Property Today

White Wolf: proposed for gated subdivision

The proposed resort is the latest in a string of massive development proposals in the North Tahoe region.  Nearby, Alterra Mountain Company proposes to transform Squaw Valley with a series of highrises and an indoor waterpark.  To the east, Sierra Pacific Industries proposes new development in the forests above Martis Valley.

On the White Wolf property, gated subdivisions would spread from Alpine Meadows Road north towards Squaw Valley and west to the Granite Chief Wilderness Area.  New development would include single-family custom home lots, new roads and parking lots, two private ski lifts, equestrian facilities, and tennis courts.

White Wolf Proposed Subdivision

White Wolf: proposed lots and development

Sierra Watch engaged experts in planning, law, biological resources, and wildfire safety to research and compile the assessment, seeking to understand the values at stake and potential impacts of the project.

Their review reveals a number of significant issues and potential impacts, including:

  • Development in land designated for National Wilderness;
  • Degradation of the wilderness experience in existing Granite Chief Wilderness;
  • Deterioration of the popular Five Lakes Trail;
  • Destruction of regional scenic values;
  • Dangers to public safety, including the threats of both wildfire and avalanche; and
  • Damage to biological resources, including potential endangered species habitat.

According to the report, “the White Wolf project proposes roads, commercial enterprise, and structures” on land designated for protection as National Wilderness when then-President Ronald Reagan signed the California Wilderness Act of 1984 into law.

“Wilderness protection is a bold declaration of American values,” says Mooers of Sierra Watch.  “And the White Wolf proposal is a direct threat to the national commitment to our natural heritage.”

5 Lakes and Granite Chief Wilderness

Pictured: Granite Chief National Wilderness

To read the full 31-page report, visit: https://www.sierrawatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/Sierra-Watch-White-Wolf-Strategic-Assessment-July-2021.pdf

The detailed document also establishes a set of Planning Principles designed to encourage responsible land use decision-making:

  1. Honor and implement the national commitment to lands designated for protection as part of the Granite Chief Wilderness.
  2. Protect the Five Lakes Trail as an important regional asset and unique outdoor experience.
  3. Ensure that new development does not degrade or overwhelm existing infrastructure.
  4. Acknowledge the growing danger of wildfire and protect the health and safety of new and existing residents.
  5. Protect lives and property from avalanche danger.
  6. Protect the biological resources of the White Wolf property and habitat value of the surrounding area.
  7. Process any application for development with full public involvement, thorough environmental assessment, and adherence to existing law.

Landowner Troy Caldwell filed an initial application for the development in 2015, seeking entitlements and asking to rezone most of the property; all but roughly three of the property’s 275 acres are currently zoned either Open Space or Forest.

Placer County is currently drafting an Environmental Impact Review, the next step in the public planning process for the proposed project.

“The goal of our assessment is to increase awareness about what’s at stake and encourage public engagement,” says Mooers of Sierra Watch.  “One thing we’ve learned as we stand up to defend our mountain values is that the more people get involved, the more likely we are to secure a conservation outcome – for ourselves and for generations to come.”

For more information, visit: https://www.sierrawatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/Sierra-Watch-White-Wolf-Strategic-Assessment-July-2021.pdf

 

About Sierra Watch

Sierra Watch works to protect great places in the Sierra Nevada. Founded in 2001, the Nevada City based non-profit has built a remarkable track record in land preservation in Tahoe’s Martis Valley, on Donner Summit, in Squaw Valley, and for other treasured Sierra landscapes.  For more information, visit www.sierrawatch.org.

Forest Service Releases Draft Decision to Keep Gondola out of Wilderness Designation

Area of proposed Alpine Squaw GondolaPictured: Hikers on the Five Lakes Trail between Squaw and Alpine

The Forest Service has released its ‘Draft Record of Decision’ on the proposed gondola from Squaw Valley to Alpine Meadows.

And there is some good news – they have rejected Alterra Mountain Company’s proposed route along the crest of the Sierra Nevada and through land designated to be part of Granite Chief Wilderness.

Federally Designated Granite Chief WildernessPictured: The former proposed route through designated Wilderness

This is a substantial conservation victory, an accomplishment Sierra Watch and our allies have been working on for nearly four years.

The Forest Service has, instead, chosen ‘Alternative 4’ – the eastern-most route it considered, and the route most distant from designated wilderness lands.

Alpine Squaw gondola alternaive routes

Pictured: Alternatives 2, 3, and 4 for the proposed Alpine / Squaw gondola

The Forest Service’s Draft Record of Decision accompanied the publication of the final draft of the joint environmental analysis performed in conjunction with Placer County.

Placer County has yet to give any formal indication concerning which of the proposed alternatives it prefers but will likely continue to follow the Forest Service’s lead.  Because construction of the gondola would require a General Plan amendment, the County’s decision will ultimately be made by the Placer County Board of Supervisors.

Sierra Watch and our legal experts are again reviewing and assessing both the documents and the Forest Service’s draft decision as we consider our next steps.

And you can review them, too.  All the documents are available at:

https://squawalpinegondola-eis.com/project-library

If you sent in a comment letter on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, you’ll find a response.  And if you have any further comments, you have until Monday, May 20, to send them to the Forest Service.

Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows Base-2-Base GondolaPictured: Wilderness boundary between Squaw and Alpine

In the meantime, you can join us in celebrating our success in preventing Alterra from developing land that Congress designated to be part of Granite Chief Wilderness back in 1984.

And we can re-double our efforts to stop them from trying to turn Squaw Valley into a Vegas-style theme park.

Sierra Watch: Squaw Update and Gondola Alert

The lifts have stopped spinning and it’s a lovely 74 degrees in Tahoe City.

As we swing into summer in the Sierra, here’s a quick update and timely alert: 

Pictured: Professional cliff diver and Keep Squaw True supporter, Brandon Beck, at Lake Tahoe

Update: Sierra Watch Challenging Squaw Valley Development

On May 24, our mountains had a day in court. In a day-long hearing, Sierra Watch spelled out how Placer County’s 2016 approvals were illegal under state planning laws.

Pictured: Placer County Superior Courthouse in Roseville

The Sierra Sun was there to cover the hearing:

“Sierra Watch’s attorneys argue Placer County fell well short of fully analyzing the impacts of Squaw Valley’s planned 25-year village redevelopment project, particularly when it comes to fire safety, traffic and resulting environmental effects on the Lake Tahoe Basin.”

We’ve pasted their full coverage below.

Alas this is not an episode of Law and Order; it does not get resolved in one hour. Our arguments are built on years of long-term effort. And a decision isn’t due for another 90 days. In the meantime, we’ll be out talking to folks who love Tahoe and getting them involved in our ongoing effort to Keep Squaw True.

Alert: Forest Service Accepting Comments on Proposed Gondola

The United States Forest Service is accepting written comments on KSL and Alterra Mountain Company’s proposal to construct an aerial gondola of 37 towers traversing 2.5 miles of the Pacific Crest of the Sierra Nevada from Squaw to Alpine.

It’s important to remember that, although the Forest Service is also considering alternative alignments, KSL is still applying for permission to run the gondola through land designated by Congress for national wilderness protection.

Pictured: KSL’s proposed gondola route

And the integrity of Granite Chief Wilderness – as seen on the right side of the picture above –  is not the only issue at stake. 

Even the project’s most “environmentally superior” route would have 33 adverse environmental impacts on important Tahoe values; including increased traffic, loss of wildlife habitat, and destruction of that unique Sierra experience the Forest Service calls “solitude or primitive unconfined recreation.”

Sierra Watch is engaging experts in planning, wildlife, and traffic to better understand the proposal and what it would mean to Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows, and our Tahoe Sierra. We’ll be submitting thorough and robust comments to the Forest Service. 

Pictured: Simulated mid-way station at Barstool Lake

If you care about this issue, you should send them a letter, too. Comments are due June 11, 2018.  You can learn more about the project here:

          https://www.squawalpinegondola-eis.com/

You can mail or email comments to:

          U.S. Forest Service, Tahoe National Forest, Truckee Ranger District

          c/o NEPA Contractor

          P.O. Box 2729

          Frisco, CO 80443

          Email: Comments@squawalpinegondola-eis.com

And there is an online comment form here:

          https://cara.ecosystem-management.org/Public//CommentInput?Project=48417

There’s no better time to get involved.  One thing Sierra Watch has learned: the more that people get involved, the better the chance that important decisions reflect our shared values.

— From the Sierra Sun

Forging ahead: Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows pushes forward with development, gondola projects

by Brian Hamilton, Editor of Sierra Sun and The Union – May 31, 2018

Pictured: (Sierra Sun File Photo) Opponents, wearing purple “Keep Squaw True” T-shirts, of Squaw Valley’s village redevelopment plan made their case before the Placer County Board of Supervisors, which approved the project by a 4-1 vote in November 2016. The prohect is the subject of two lawsuits filed by Sierra Watch

Sierra Watch’s attorneys argue Placer County fell well short of fully analyzing the impacts of Squaw Valley’s planned 25-year village redevelopment project, particularly when it comes to fire safety, traffic and resulting environmental effects on the Lake Tahoe Basin.

And the nonprofit organization, which has led an opposition campaign “Keep Squaw True,” recently took that case to court. That lawsuit is one of two filed by Sierra Watch over Placer County’s approval, with another alleging supervisors violated California’s Brown Act.

Both cases were argued in courtrooms in May, while another planned project — a gondola linking Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows — was also the topic of a public hearing in the past week.

“Just because the project is not located in the Basin, doesn’t mean impacts on the Basin shouldn’t be considered,” Daniel Selmi, a Sierra Watch attorney, said in a May 24 hearing in Placer County Superior Court. “The County’s obligation is to examine the impacts. The village will generate some traffic and some of that traffic will venture into the Basin … an environmentally stressed area. It’s obvious. There’s not some sort of wall between the two. Lake Tahoe is the draw up there.”

Selmi and fellow Sierra Watch attorneys outlined what they deemed as deficits in the meeting requirements under the California Environmental Quality Act, arguing Placer County approved the project despite failing to consider the full impact on the region and its residents through a thorough analysis.

Whit Manley, representing Squaw Valley, said the project’s environmental impact report met all requirements, and that Squaw Valley went beyond its obligation under law to mitigate the impacts identified. But it’s no surprise Sierra Watch isn’t satisfied by the report, saying the organization doesn’t seem to recognize efforts to mitigate issues outlined, which has included scaling back the scope of the project from 1,877 residential units to 1,295 in 2011, and then again to the 850 units eventually approved.

“I recognize the petitioner thinks that’s still too many,” Manley told Judge Michael Jones. “I don’t know what’s acceptable to them. But what matters, ultimately, is what is acceptable to the Board of Supervisors.”

He said the court should not be asked to weigh which side has “better evidence,” but whether the supervisors’ conclusion — approval — was within the boundary of the law, as opposed to “second-guessing people elected to make these decisions.”

FULL FIRE DANGER KNOWN?

The project’s environmental impact report raised more questions than it answered, said Amy Bricker, a Sierra Watch attorney who addressed impacts on fire safety with added traffic to evacuation routes, already estimated to take several hours to move everyone out of the area. She said while a “shelter in place” approach discussed in the report might provide safety to some, it doesn’t fully consider the project’s impact on a site designated a very high Fire Hazard Severity Zone.

In his opposition brief to Sierra Watch’s suit, Manley wrote “the Board found that the Project would not interfere with adopted emergency evacuation plans, and that people or structures would not be exposed to a significant risk of loss from wildland fires.”

“The question is how bad is it going to be?” Bricker said in court. “The best-case scenario is sitting in your car for five hours … just to get over to (State Road) 89.”

“(Even with shelter in place) there’s no analysis of how bad the situation is going to be, how long would they be there? … These are all unanswered by the analysis. It jumps to the conclusion that (the project) does not create a safety risk. How did it reach that conclusion?”

Each side now awaits word on the judge’s ruling, which could take up to 90 days from the May 25 hearing on the matter (See this story at SierraSun.com for copies of all court filings in the cases).

BROWN ACT ALLEGATION RESOLVED?

A separate suit filed by Sierra Watch alleging Placer County’s supervisors violated California’s Brown Act by not properly notifying the public in entering what it describes as an “11th-hour agreement” by the Squaw Valley to pay a Tahoe Regional Planning Association Air Quality Mitigation Fee.

Sierra Watch said a memo on the agreement was not available to the public within 72 hours of a Nov. 15, 2016 meeting where the project was approved by supervisors. The memo wasn’t emailed to the Board of Supervisors until 5:36 p.m. Nov. 14. A copy of the memo was placed at the Clerk of the Board of Supervisors Office in Auburn, meaning the document was not available to the public prior to the meeting during the next day’s normal business hours.

A “Proposed Statement of Decision” was released by the court on May 9, with Jones determining “the County did not violate (the Brown Act) in considering approval of the Development Agreement.”

And, Jones continued, “(Sierra Watch) suggests several alternative ways in which the County might have alerted members of the public to the existence of the (memo) following its distribution to the Board,” Jones wrote. “But nothing mandates the use of alternative methods … Petitioner fails to establish a violation of the statute.”

Isaac Silverman, a Sierra Watch attorney, said the organization won’t comment on the matter until a final ruling is made.

Clayton Cook, deputy county counsel, said Placer County has been clear it did not violate the law in reaching the agreement.

“Everything has been done within the Brown Act and the letter of the law,” Cook said. “It appears the court ultimately sided with us.”

 Report by Brian Hamilton, Editor of the Sierra Sun and The Union

 

Big Week for Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows, & Sierra Watch

It’s a great week to Keep Squaw True.

Thursday we’ll be in court, pursuing our legal challenge to Placer County’s 2016 approvals of KSL’s reckless development.

In a day of oral arguments, we’ll point out that ‘Shelter in Place’ is not a viable tactic for dealing with catastrophic wildfire. 

That adding thousands of cars to Tahoe’s crowded roadways would bring traffic to a frustrating halt

And that KSL shouldn’t get a free pass to pollute the waters of Lake Tahoe.

Meanwhile on that same day, in Kings Beach, the Placer County Planning Commission will take public input on the draft environmental review of the proposed Squaw to Alpine gondola.

It’s a great opportunity to learn more about the project – and make your voice heard:

          Placer County Planning Commission

          Thursday, May 24 at 10:00 a.m.

          North Tahoe Event Center

          8318 North Lake Boulevard, Kings Beach, CA 96134

County officials will take public comment on KSL and Alterra Mountain Company’s proposal to construct an aerial gondola of 37 towers traversing 2.5 miles of the Pacific Crest of the Sierra Nevada from Squaw to Alpine.

It’s important to remember that, although the U.S. Forest Service is also considering alternative alignments, KSL is still applying for permission to run the gondola through land designated by Congress for national wilderness protection.

Pictured: Visual Simulation of towers in designated wilderness

And the integrity of Granite Chief Wilderness is not the only issue at stake. 

Even the project’s most “environmentally superior” route would have 33 adverse environmental impacts on important Tahoe values; including increased traffic, loss of wildlife habitat, and destruction of the kind of outdoor mountain experiences the Forest Service calls opportunities for “solitude or primitive unconfined recreation.”

Sierra Watch is engaging experts in planning, wildlife, and traffic to better understand the proposal and what it would mean to Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows, and our Tahoe Sierra. 

We’ll be submitting thorough and robust comments to the Forest Service.  And, if you care about this issue, you should send them a letter, too. Comments are due June 11, 2018.

You can learn more about the proposed Squaw to Alpine gondola here:

          https://www.squawalpinegondola-eis.com/

You can mail or email comments to:

          U.S. Forest Service, Tahoe National Forest, Truckee Ranger District

          c/o NEPA Contractor

          P.O. Box 2729

          Frisco, CO 80443

                     Email: Comments@squawalpinegondola-eis.com

And there is an online comment form for the Squaw to Alpine gondola here:

          https://cara.ecosystem-management.org/Public//CommentInput?Project=48417

Agencies Release Impact Assessment of Proposed Squaw Alpine Gondola

Proposed Squaw Alpine Gondola Projected To Have 33 Adverse Impacts

For Immediate Release
Contact: Tom Mooers, (530) 265-2849 x200

 

Nevada City, Calif. – The United States Forest Service and Placer County issued their draft environmental studies today for the Squaw Alpine Gondola proposed to connect Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows in North Lake Tahoe.

The joint Draft Environmental Impact Statement/Report (DEIS/R) analyzes the proposal by Squaw Valley Ski Holdings, a subsidiary of KSL and their newly formed Alterra Mountain Company to build an aerial gondola consisting of 37 towers traversing 2.5 miles of the Pacific Crest of the Sierra Nevada just north and west of the Lake Tahoe Basin.

Pictured: Crest of Sierra, proposed for Gondola

The document assesses three different routes and predicts that even the project’s most “environmentally preferable” route would cause 33 adverse environmental impacts on important Sierra issues, ranging from increased traffic to lost opportunities for what the Forest Service calls “solitude or primitive unconfined recreation.”

Pictured: Map of proposed gondola routes

The environmental document compares the impacts of the KSL Capital Partners/Alterra Mountain Company proposal, Alternative 2 in their documentation, to two alternative gondola routes, Alternatives 3 and 4, or no gondola construction at all. 

KSL’s proposed route would cut through the Granite Chief Wilderness Designation as well as across the popular Five Lakes Trail.

Unsurprisingly, the studies identified “no action” as the “environmentally preferable” course for the Forest Service and Placer County, and it also found that KSL and Alterra’s original proposal to run the gondola through land designated for National Wilderness was the most environmentally destructive.

Instead the Forest Service and Placer County identified one of the alternate gondola routes, Alternative 4, as the “environmentally preferable” action alternative. However, even following the “environmentally preferable” route of Alternative 4, the Forest Service found that a Squaw Alpine Gondola would cause 33 adverse environmental impacts across 9 categories including: regional transportation, noise, air quality, vegetation, botany, wildlife and acquatics, wetlands, and hydrology and water quality. 

It would also cause an additional eight minor adverse environmental impacts including ones in two new categories: increased climate change and greenhouse gas emissions and lost “opportunities for solitude or primitive unconfined recreation.”

Sierra conservationists were diving into the document to better understand what the project would mean to Tahoe’s natural environment, and whether any of the routes.

“Our job now is to study this assessment to better answer the fundamental question: does the gondola make sense for North Tahoe or is it just another example of KSL and Alterra’s attempt to turn Squaw Valley into a Vegas-style amusement park?” says Tom Mooers, Executive Director of Sierra Watch.

Its northern terminus in Squaw Valley is part of KSL and Alterra’s controversial plans to transform the North Tahoe mountain with highrise condos, an indoor water park, and a roller coaster – as well as the proposed gondola.

Pictured: Visual Simulation of Proposed Towers for Alternative 2

In November 2016, Placer County officials approved that application for development entitlements at the base of Squaw, but those approvals have been met with overwhelming resistance from the movement to “Keep Squaw True” – made up of local residents and California conservationists – and held up by two lawsuits in Placer County Superior Court.

The proposed gondola is still in the early stages of the public planning process. 

The Draft Environmental Impact Statement is designed to inform the public and decision-makers about the project’s effect on the area and to seek ways to limit or prevent negative impacts. Regulatory agencies, conservation organizations, neighboring jurisdictions, and members of the public now have the opportunity to submit comments on the project to the Forest Service.

Of particular interest are the impacts that Forest Service identifies “adverse” or Placer County identifies as “significant and unavoidable.” And of the utmost concern is the scenic value and natural resources of the project location. 

Due to the amount and scale of the infrastructure any proposed route would have adverse or significant and unavoidable impacts to what the agencies refer to as the area’s “visual character.” Although the study found that the alternative would reduce the severity of this degradation, infrastructure would still impact viewsheds throughout the region, including from within the Lake Tahoe Basin and the nearby Granite Chief Wilderness.

That proximity to the Granite Chief Wilderness is also the reason that the Forest Service found minor adverse impacts to “opportunities for solitude or primitive unconfined recreation.”

Pictured: Wilderness Boundry by Proposed Route

“There’s a unique sense of place at the crest of the Sierra, and industrial-scale infrastructure looming over the Granite Chief Wilderness presents a clear threat to the integrity of the Five Lakes Trail and to the wilderness experience,” according to Mooers.

Wildlife habitat will prove to be another challenging issue; the project runs through land identified by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service as critical habitat for the preservation and recovery of the endangered Sierra Nevada Yellow-legged Frog. Even the environmentally preferable route would disturb and destroy wetland and riparian habitat usable by the endangered frog, resulting in multiple adverse impact findings.

And although proponents tout the project as a traffic solution, the Forest Service and Placer County found that construction of the Squaw Alpine Gondola would actually attract more than 700 new visitors and put around 430 more cars on the road during busy weekend days.  

And, according the review, when the project is considered cumulatively alongside KSL’s controversial waterpark and village Squaw expansion plans, the picture is particularly grim: travelers should expect slow speeds and long waits extending from Interstate 80 to Squaw Valley.

Finally, conservationists also flag the role of the project in providing new “growth-inducing” infrastructure, which could encourage new development in a treasured alpine landscape. That’s because a Squaw Alpine Gondola would not only connect to the existing Alpine Meadows development and proposed development in Squaw Valley, it would also connect with a new development proposed for the White Wolf property in between the two resorts.

Although details remain scarce, would-be developer Troy Caldwell has submitted initial plans to build 38 luxury homes, a ski lift, a lodge, tennis courts, equestrian facilities – and a connection to the new gondola as a central amenity.

Conservation groups had hoped to create a collaborative agreement that might allow for a new gondola, as long as it was tied to protection of some of the iconic White Wolf landscape. But proponents were unwilling to consider a broader approach.

The Forest Service and Placer County will be accepting comments on their Draft documents through June 11, 2018. The massive document for the Squaw Alpine Gondola is available at:

http://media.squawalpinegondola-eis.com/documents/Squaw_Valley_Alpine_Meadows_Draft_EIS_EIR.pdf

 

For more information on the Squaw Alpine Gondola and the comment period/process, please go the USFS website to learn more: https://www.squawalpinegondola-eis.com/

 

About Sierra Watch

Sierra Watch works to protect great places in the Sierra Nevada. Founded in 2001, the Nevada City based non-profit has built a remarkable track record in land preservation in Tahoe’s Martis Valley, on Donner Summit, and for other treasured Sierra landscapes.  For more information, visit www.sierrawatch.org.

 

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Environmental Groups to Tahoe Developer: Stay Out of Wilderness

Logos_Wilderness Letter

July 28, 2015

Andy Wirth
Squaw Valley Ski Holdings
1960 Squaw Valley Road
Olympic Valley, CA 96146

Troy Caldwell
P.O. Box 1784
Tahoe City, CA  96145

Dear Messrs. Wirth and Caldwell,

On July 2nd Squaw Valley sent out an email announcing that you intend to submit a formal proposal for a gondola connecting Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows.

According to the map and materials released on April 13, 2015, the proposed route would cut through land designated as wilderness by the California Wilderness Act of 1984.

We are writing to request that, if you do follow through with an actual project proposal, you choose a route that avoids federally designated wilderness.

The Wilderness Act of 1964 is one of the greatest achievements in the proud history of American conservation.  It’s a bold statement of principle that we, as a country, value wilderness and are committed to protect the wilderness experience, for ourselves and generations to follow.

In the words of the Act itself, passed by Congress after years of advocacy and effort, “A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.”

When it was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson the Wilderness Act secured immediate protection of more than 9,000,000 acres of federally designated Wilderness.  It also created provisions to add, by acts of Congress, more land to the federal wilderness system.

After more than a decade of careful inventory, as well as five years of Congressional politicking, President Ronald Reagan signed the California Wilderness Act of 1984 into law.  It added 3,000,000 acres to the National Wilderness Preservation System, including the newly created Granite Chief National Wilderness Area.

At that time, significant portions of these lands, including more than a third of Granite Chief were privately owned.  To encourage their permanent protection, Congress simultaneously authorized the Secretary of Agriculture to purchase any private lands within the newly created Wilderness Area boundaries from willing sellers.  The bulk of the privately owned land in the Granite Chief Wilderness was acquired by the Forest Service in 1991, but a small portion of the area, including the land proposed for the gondola, remains in private hands.

We understand that these cliffs, ridges, and forests on which the gondola would be built are privately owned.  However, the inclusion of this land within the Granite Chief Wilderness Area boundary in 1984 is a clear statement of its value to our nation; that we recognize that this land is special − and should remain that way.

Wilderness designations do not come easy.  Each marks its own remarkable achievement, the result of years of field research, citizen advocacy, and, often, political compromise.

The original Wilderness Act of 1964 demanded scores of re-writes and nine years of Congressional history.  Its principal author, Howard Zahniser, was motivated by his conviction that America has “…a profound fundamental need for areas of the earth where we stand without our mechanisms that make us immediate masters over our environment.”

We ask you to join us in honoring that commitment, made as a nation more than fifty years ago and reaffirmed by the California Wilderness Act of 1984:  No proposed gondola should threaten the existing boundaries − and timeless values − of the National Granite Chief Wilderness Area.

Signatures_Wilderness Letter