Judge Allows Groups to Intervene In Death Valley Case

Areas in which Inyo County wants to build highways. Earth Justice Graphic.

Areas in which Inyo County wants to build highways. Earth Justice Graphic. Click here for larger detail.

A federal judge has agreed to allow the Sierra Club, The Wilderness Society, Friends of the Inyo, California Wilderness Coalition, Center for Biological Diversity, and the National Parks Conservation Association to intervene in a court battle over road building in Death Valley National Park.
As I noted back in January, at issue is whether Inyo County, California, should be allowed to bulldoze roads in a portion of Death Valley that is designated wilderness. In agreeing to let the conservation groups intervene in the matter on behalf of the National Park Service, Judge Anthony Ishii wrote that the groups have a "significant protectable interest" in how the legal battle plays out.
"Proposed intervenors' interest is the preservation of the land through which the challenged rights of way run as wilderness area and/or area protected by the California Desert Protection Act," the judge wrote. "The Wilderness Act provides that 'subject to existing private rights, there shall be no commercial enterprise and no permanent road within any wilderness area designated by this chapter. ... The grant of rights of way to plaintiff to establish permanent improved roads within the areas in contention would, at minimum, impair proposed intervenors' interests in maintaining wilderness area designations in those areas."
“Inyo County’s land grab could undermine the very reasons Death Valley is such an iconic American landscape: its quiet, its beauty, its wildness,” says Ted Zukoski, attorney at Earthjustice, which filed the motion to intervene. “The court understood that, and understood that those with the strongest interest in protecting Death Valley should have a seat at the table.”