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Richardson Grove Fight Goes to Court

EPIC Attorney, Sharon Duggan explaining next steps to Richardson Grove supporters.

On Tuesday, EPIC and allies were back in court to stop the highway expansion through the ancient redwoods of Richardson Grove State Park. Richardson Grove supporters packed the courtroom—an overflow-sized crowd that made the bailiff nervous and the judge pay attention. (Thank you for your help! It was so inspiring to see so many passionate community members. <3 <3 <3)

At issue was Caltrans’ attempt to discharge of the “writ of mandamus” issued by the Court of Appeals—the court order, in non-legalese, which ordered Caltrans to do a better job on analyzing the impacts to old-growth redwoods. By “discharging the writ,” Caltrans would be one step closer to starting on their destructive project.

Speaking on behalf of the trees, our hot shot attorneys Sharon Duggan and Stu Gross, made clear that Caltrans’ attempts to clarify the impact to old-growth redwoods just muddied the waters—for example, the number of old-growth trees impacted by the project has increased despite Caltrans assertions that they have shrunk the scale and impacts of the project. This failure to clarify the impacts is important because it violates what the agency was ordered to do by the Court of Appeals. Because the impacts to old-growth is still unclear—although Caltrans does admit that a significant number of old-growth redwoods would experience dieback in their canopy—EPIC argued that Caltrans failed to do what the Court of Appeals required of the agency.

The judge, Honorable Kelly Neel, was attentive and seemed to grasp the importance of the hearing. At the outset, she made clear that she would not rule immediately as she would need time to consider the briefing and the arguments.

We are confident that the facts and law are on our side. But just in case we lose here, we have backup plans. If we lose at the Superior Court, we can always appeal to the court of appeals. Further, we have two new lawsuits—one filed in Humboldt County Superior Court and one in the Northern District of California—that we will continue to press. We have held back the bulldozers and cement trucks for over ten years. We aren’t giving up the fight any time soon!


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