Attorney General Lockyer Defends Newly Created Giant Sequoias National Monument in Sierra Nevada

Tuesday, March 20, 2001
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(SACRAMENTO) – Seeking to protect the state's unique and irreplaceable giant redwoods for all Californians, Attorney General Bill Lockyer today filed motions in federal court defending the newly created Giant Sequoia National Monument in the western Sierra Nevada.

The Attorney General said California has a strong interest in defending the national monument in the Sequoia National Forest and in preserving the original intent of a decade-old settlement agreement for forest management which does not create the personal rights to resource use and access that are now being suggested by those who want to overturn the Giant Sequoia National Monument. The Attorney General added that President Clinton acted within his authority under the federal Antiquities Act to establish the monument.

The Attorney General's motion to intervene was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, where the President was sued by Tulare County and a number of timber interests, off-road vehicle associations and private property owners to overturn the monument. As part of the court filings, the Attorney General asked for dismissal of the lawsuit.

"Californians have a strong and long-standing interest in achieving permanent and effective protection for these unique and irreplaceable giant sequoias," Lockyer said. "The giant redwoods and their surrounding ecosystems were identified for important protection by the presidential proclamation."

The Giant Sequoia National Monument was established on April 15, 2000, by Proclamation No. 7295 under the Antiquities Act of 1906 to protect numerous objects of scientific and historical value, including the world's largest trees. Relatively modest, the 328,000-acre monument contains such natural wonders as giant sequoias that are found nowhere but the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada.

In 1990, a settlement agreement for the management of the Sequoia National Forest was reached after a 17-month mediation process with 27 parties, including the California Attorney General's Office, the US Forest Service, several environmental groups, timber and off-road vehicle user groups and other stakeholders. The settlement resolved a variety of environmental concerns and resource use issues in the management of the Sequoia National Forest. Under the agreement, the US Forest Service was directed to amend its land management plan for the forest to provide, among other things, greater assurance of protection for forest resources, including the giant sequoia groves.

The Attorney General's motion expressed concern that the settlement agreement be interpreted properly "and that it is not used to advance the interests of certain private signatories over others."

"The People of California have at least two important interests at stake in this litigation," the motion states. "First, plaintiff seeks a ruling from this Court that the 1990 Agreement creates personal rights to particular types of resource use and access within the Sequoia National Forest that, in the People's view, the Agreement does not, and was never intended to, bestow. Second, the People of California have a compelling interest in a full and vigorous defense of the Monument. The People seek to assure that the Proclamation establishing the Monument is recognized as a proper exercise of presidential discretion under the Antiquities Act, and that it is not unduly altered by the handling or outcome of this litigation."

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