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Attorney General Lockyer Issues Statement Regarding Court Ruling to Protect Giant Sequoias
(SACRAMENTO) – Attorney General Bill Lockyer today issued the following statement regarding today’s ruling by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California that blocks the Bush Administration’s plan to step up logging in the Giant Sequoia National Monument (Monument):
“Today’s court ruling is a resounding victory for the Giant Sequoias, towering treasures that symbolize the magnificent beauty of California’s Sierra Nevada range and inspire awe in all of us. The ruling also is a resounding defeat for the Bush Administration, which aggressively sought to unravel the protections guarding John Muir’s ‘big trees.’ We simply cannot afford to sacrifice for short term gain majestic Sequoias that have stood for centuries. Today’s ruling helps ensure these state gems will be standing for generations to come.”
Lockyer in 2005 filed a lawsuit against the Bush Administration’s Giant Sequoia National Monument Management Plan, which allowed an annual timber harvest of at least 7.5 million board feet. Lockyer’s lawsuit challenged the Bush Plan for violating the 2000 proclamation (Proclamation) by President Clinton that established the Monument. The Proclamation prohibited tree removal in the covered forest land unless “clearly needed” to protect the ecology or public safety. The suit also alleged the Bush plan violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which requires agencies to evaluate the potential environmental impacts of a management decision before the decision gets made and irreversible consequences occur. NEPA also requires written plans to be clear and comprehensible to the public, and the lawsuit alleged the Bush plan was incomprehensible and unclearly incorporated parts of other plans.
In today’s ruling, the court agreed with Lockyer that the plan violated NEPA.
In barring timber production, the Proclamation found the affected forests needed to be restored to help them recover from “a century of fire suppression and logging” that not only virtually destroyed entire forests, but also increased the wildfire hazard.
Giant sequoias, which sometimes grow taller than 270 feet and reach diameters of 30 feet, exist only in the Sierra Nevada. Their ancestors graced the Earth as far back as 20 million years ago. The Monument is home to 38 sequoia groves, 1,000 miles of trails, including three national trails, four stretches of wild and scenic rivers, and more than 50 developed campgrounds, including 144 campsites located in the groves.
One of the more eloquent commentaries about the unique majesty of the giant sequoias came from President Bush’s father, former President George Bush. In a 1992 presidential proclamation that launched the effort to preserve these crown jewels of the Sierra Nevada, George Bush observed, “For centuries, groves of the Giant Sequoia have stimulated the interest and wonder of those who behold them. The Giant Sequoia is a tree that inspires emotion like no other and has mystically entered the hearts of humanity everywhere.”
Six conservation groups filed a similar federal-court challenge to Bush’s management plan for the Monument. The court today also issued a ruling on that challenge.
Another major legal challenge filed by Lockyer against the Bush Administration’s forest policies, a lawsuit against the 2004 Sierra Nevada Framework plan, remains pending in court.