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Court Affirms Monument Status of Sequoia Preserve

Environmentalists praise the ruling, but it will cost Tulare County millions of dollars.

October 19, 2002|Randy Trick | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- A federal appeals court Friday ruled against Tulare County officials, logging industry interests and recreational users who are seeking to dismantle Central California's Giant Sequoia National Monument, which President Clinton created by executive order more than two years ago.

The ruling means continued federal protection for the 328,000-acre expanse, which holds 34 groves of ancient sequoias, and environmental groups were hopeful that it will end debate about how the land is used. But plaintiffs said they are considering an appeal to the Supreme Court.

The court also ruled on a separate lawsuit challenging Clinton's creation of six other national monuments in the West, saying all will retain federal protection.

Environmental groups had praise for Friday's action.

"The decision turns back the attack on the American people's right to have the country's grandeur protected by presidential action," said Niel Lawrence, an attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, which teamed with Earthjustice and other environmental groups in the suit. "It's wonderful to see so important a public right reaffirmed."

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday October 20, 2002 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 4 inches; 158 words Type of Material: Correction
National monument -- Carrizo Plain National Monument was not affected by an appeals court ruling Friday that affirmed federal protection of six national monuments. A photograph and caption that ran Saturday on Page A2 indicated otherwise.

But Tulare County Supervisor Steve Worthley said officials there are "obviously very disappointed in the court's finding."

"This means that, with a stroke of a pen, the president can turn every piece of federally owned land into a monument," Worthley said.

When Clinton created the seven national monuments in April 2000, he evoked the Antiquities Act of 1906, which allows presidents to preserve historic and prehistoric sites on federal land without congressional approval.

Plaintiffs in the two suits alleged that Clinton failed to make the case that the sites have a historic or scientific interest. Also, in the case of the sequoia groves, they said Clinton did not use enough specificity in his declaration to satisfy the act's requirements.

But the court said there is no requirement in the Antiquities Act concerning specificity and that entire ecosystems and vistas qualify as having historic or scientific value.

Tulare County has been battling the designation because it means millions of dollars in lost revenue. The county benefits from sharing fees the U.S. Forest Service collects from logging there. Logging is prohibited in national monuments.

Recreation groups oppose the new monument because the Park Service, which manages national monuments, limits access to motorized equipment.

"This is an issue that hasn't been to the Supreme Court in a long time," said William Perry Pendley, president and chief legal officer of the Mountain States Legal Foundation.

Lawrence is confident, however, that the issue is settled.

"The appellate court made clear the opponents had a completely unviable theory," Lawrence said. "Refiling would be, at best, a waste of resources, time and money."

In addition to Giant Sequoia, the other monuments affected by Friday's rulings are: the Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument, the Sonoran Desert National Monument and the Ironwood Forest National Monument, all in Arizona; Colorado's Canyons of the Ancients National Monument; Oregon's Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument; and the Hanford Reach National Monument in Washington.


Times staff writer Arianne Aryanpur contributed to this report.

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