- Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) - https://www.wildcalifornia.org -

Richardson Grove Rendezvous Recap

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Photo by James Adam Taylor

Special thanks to all who came out to EPIC’s Richardson Grove Potluck Rendezvous this last Sunday to celebrate the recent legal victories for the Grove and to discuss the upcoming battles still ahead of us. We were so happy to see so many old (and new) supporters and allies gather and break bread together at the very spot we have all been working so hard to protect.

EPIC’s long-time attorneys, Sharon Duggan and Stu Gross, were in attendance and gave important legal updates to the crowd from the most recent state and federal decisions. Sharon particularly emphasized that now, more than ever, public input and participation is needed in order to save the Grove permanently from CalTrans’ bull-headed plans.

With that in mind, we must all continue to work together as a community to keep these ancient trees free from spades and bulldozers. Please continue to stay in tune for more updates and upcoming strategies regarding the Richardson Grove Project and we look forward to the next rendezvous in solidarity with the Grove!

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Sharon Duggan and Stu Gross giving important legal updates

Background

Richardson Grove State Park, considered the gateway to the Redwoods, is where tourists often first encounter large Redwoods when heading north on Highway 101. It is home to one of the last protected stands of accessible old-growth redwood trees in the world. The park has essential habitat for protected species and its creeks support runs of imperiled salmon and steelhead trout.

The project set forth by California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) includes plans to realign a section of Highway 101 that winds through old-growth redwoods in the park. The work would require crews to dig into the roots of towering redwoods that stand along the highway within park boundaries. Threats include possibly fatal damage to the prized ancient trees, as well as harm to sensitive wildlife posed by the controversial project, Caltrans again and again has failed to evaluate impacts of the project in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act and the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

Litigation against the Richardson Grove project has been successful in both state and federal court. Most recent wins for the Grove have occurred this year in 2019 in both state and federal courts. For instance, in the federal court, Judge Alsup of the Northern District District Court of California ruled in favor of plaintiffs, finding that Caltrans failed to take a hard look at the impacts to old growth redwoods under federal law and ordered that, “At long last, the Court now orders that Caltrans stop trying to skate by with an EA/FONSI and that Caltrans prepare a valid EIS. Please do not try to systematically minimize the adverse environmental consequences and to cherry-pick the science.”

In the state court, Humboldt County Superior Court Judge Kelly Neel ruled in favor of plaintiffs as well, finding that Caltrans avoided public scrutiny by failing to solicit public comment on a significant piece of new information—a report from an arborist hired by Caltrans. In doing so, Judge Neel highlighted that the public and other agencies were deprived of their right to provide comment and feedback, something “essential” to the law.