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Lawsuit Puts Temporary Stop to Logging in Yosemite National Park

— July 7, 2022

The lawsuit alleged that Yosemite officials had violated aspects of their own management plan by failing to conduct environmental analyses and neglecting public opinion.

A federal court has put a temporary halt to a project that could permit thousands of trees to be felled across Yosemite National Park.

According to The Union Democrat, the injunction follows a lawsuit filed by the Berkeley-based John Muir Project, which alleges that Yosemite approved a large-scale commercial logging venture without proper environmental analysis or a required public review.

The complaint names as defendants Yosemite Superintendent Cicely Muldoon, the National Park Service, and the U.S. Department of Interior.

A tentative agreement between Yosemite National Park and the John Muir Project will prevent more trees from being felled, at least for the time being.

“We are pleased that the Park Service and its attorneys were willing to work with us to avoid the need for a temporary restraining order,” said attorney Tom Buchele of the Earthrise Law Center, which is representing the John Muir Project in litigation.

Under the agreement, Yosemite will follow its own fire management plan, using wildland fires and proscribed burning to manage an estimated 99% of the park’s forest cover.

A 2009 wildfire in Yosemite National Park. Image via Wikimedia Commons/user: Salam2009. (CCA-By-4.0).

Tree cutting—or thinning—will be employed only to manage the remaining 1% of Yosemite’s growth.

The Union Democrat notes that Yosemite allegedly violated the National Environmental Policy Act and Administrative Procedure Act, and failed to stay true to its own mission to preserve the area’s natural beauty in a way that will leave it “unimpaired, for the enjoyment of future generations.”

While Yosemite National Park had described the venture as an initiative to protect wildlife and vulnerable habitats—particular that of the giant sequoia tree–the John Muir Project observed that many of the proposed thinning measures were to be implemented in places where the giant sequoia does not grow.

“In some places, the logging that they’re doing in Yosemite Valley is so intensive, it’s actually clear cutting,” John Muir Project ecologist Chad Hanson told The Fresno Bee last month. “They’re actually clear cutting the forest — mature and old forests — in Yosemite Valley.”

In its complaint, the Project said that hundreds of climate change scientists and ecologists had warned the Biden administration and Yosemite National Park that commercial logging activities would not prevent climate change-driven wildfires.

In fact, some experts said that an increase in commercial logging could drive real wildfires toward nearby homes.

The court order will allow for only limited rehabilitation works along Merced Grover Road, and provides that “no trees will be cut during this work.”


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