Places like Mineral King were protected for the public to enjoy them in a pristine state. Whether we hike, climb, cave or raft their wild reaches, we must do so in a way that minimizes our impact to the ecosystem.
But not all forms of recreation are created equal. In the same way that development to accommodate two million skiers may have carved the Mineral King's mountains to shreds, other human pursuits are leaving tracks that don't disappear easily—threatening wildlife and the sanctity of the special places that others would enjoy undisturbed.
Earthjustice is representing conservation groups in challenging the Forest Service's adoption of a motorized travel management plan that failed to minimize damage from off-road vehicles in the Stanislaus National Forest. The Forest Service's decision gives the green light to noisy and highly destructive dirt bikes, all-terrain vehicles and other off-road vehicles to cross into roadless areas, fragile streams and meadows.
On Thanksgiving weekend, upwards of a thousand motorized dirt-bikers would gather in the California desert at Barstow and charge off across the dry and fragile land bound for Las Vegas, some 150 miles away. The bikes would tear up the land, damage plants and crush rare desert tortoises in their burrows. After years of Earthjustice litigation, the race was eventually suspended in the late 'seventies, resumed in the 'eighties, and ended for good in 1990.
Earthjustice challenged the legality of hundreds of miles of motorized vehicle routes in the Pike and San Isabel National Forests—a Colorado treasure and one of the top 10 most visited forests in the country. The Forest Service is required to thoroughly review new motorized vehicle routes to determine their impact before they are approved, yet 500 miles of disputed unevaluated routes appear on the Forest Service's Motor Vehicle Use Map.
Earthjustice filed suit after Kane County, Utah, ripped out signs meant to protect areas from damage by off-road and other vehicles in the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, a national recreation area. The county also attempted to buck federal authority by placing its own signs inviting vehicle use in areas prohibited by the Bureau of Land Management. In 2009, the court resoundingly rejected the county's attempt to take the law into its own hands.
In 2009, Earthjustice successfully fought the Bush administration's multiple attempts to repeal a plan to phase out noisy, wildlife-disturbing snowmobiles that forced park rangers to wear gas masks to protect their lungs from the toxic exhaust. Yellowstone, the nation's first national park, is home to countless wildlife species as well as the centerpiece of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem—one of the largest remaining, nearly intact ecosystems in the world.
… And More: From the critical wildlife corridor of Montana's Badger-Two Medicine region to the irreplaceable refuge of Idaho's Salmon-Challis National Forest, visit our website to learn about the diversity and breadth of Earthjustice's work to protect special places: earthjustice.org