Full circle time, in a sense. The establishment of this organization was sparked, in part, by a lawsuit filed by the Sierra Club in 1969, challenging a ski resort proposed for a valley in the Sierra Nevada called Mineral King. The club had no objection to skiing per se, but this was to be a humongous affair that would have completely overwhelmed the valley and its wildlife and largely wrecked it for hiking, camping, and backpacking.
The club filed suit in federal court. The government argued that the club had no right to bring the case at all, that it lacked "standing to sue."
The club prevailed in the district court, lost in the appeals court, and lost again at the Supreme Court. But, in a famous footnote, the high court also said that if the club amended its suit to show how it and its members would be hurt by the resort, the organization could come back to court and try again.The club did; the resort was blocked again, and Disney threw in the towel. A few years later, Mineral King was added to Sequoia National Park (which surrounds it on three sides).
Encouraged by the result, volunteer lawyers on the club’s Legal Committee decided that a full-time legal capability would achieve great things and they created the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund. The name was changed to Earthjustice in 1997.
Now, Mineral King is poised to be added to the National Wilderness Preservation System. Mineral King was left out of Sequoia National Park when the park was created in 1990 because of all the industrial detritus left behind by a failed mining boomlet. It is a testament to the healing powers of nature—and the vision of the people who fought to defend the valley from overdevelopment—that this lovely little gem will be forever preserved and protected.