Court Halts Construction in Yosemite National Park
U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer issued a preliminary injunction today forcing the National Park Service to halt realignment of a road and construction of buildings and parking lots in Yosemite Valley that were damaged by floods in the winter of 1996-97.
The Park Service is trying to use the flooding as an excuse to avoid including the public in the process of planning Yosemite's future, and to do an end run around the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act -- to prepare an environmental impact statement and examine alternatives to a proposed action" said Joe Brecher, an Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund attorney who represents the Sierra Club in this suit. "This injunction now gives us time to make sure the process works as it is supposed to work.
The Lodge Plan would plant parking lots in five acres of previously undeveloped forest and meadow, move a road to the banks of the Merced River, build 340 rooms of lodging in an undeveloped area of the park, create visual intrusions for Park visitors seeking a natural wilderness experience, and create traffic bottlenecks. The construction, in total, would bring more urbanization into the valley, which violates the intent of the 1980 General Management Plan adopted by the National Park Service.
The General Management Plan intends eventually to "remove all automobiles from Yosemite Valley and to redirect development to the periphery of the park and beyond." The Plan is designed so "visitors can step into Yosemite and find nature uncluttered by piecemeal stumbling blocks of commercialism, machines, and fragments of suburbia." Reconstruction of damaged elements of Yosemite Lodge failed to take into consideration a full range of reasonable alternatives and did not factor in the cumulative effects of development in Yosemite Valley.
The court's ruling halts all construction until a full trial can be held on the merits of the case, probably next Spring.
Yosemite Valley is the crown jewel of our National Park System -- any construction there must pass full environmental review, not simply be approved for the sake of expediency," Brecher said. "The Park Service will now go back to the drawing board and this time, we hope, they will do the right thing.
Electronic maps of the construction area and copies of the court order are available. Contact Brian Smith at Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund 415-627-6700