Conservationists Chase Heavy Equipment from Base of Mt. Whitney

Mt. Whitney, CA — Quiet was restored today to the base of Mt. Whitney, where a Los Angeles developer agreed with conservationists to suspend development on his contentious property in the open desert ouside of Lone Pine, California.

Jim Walters has proposed to carve luxury parcels out of the pristine desert along Whitney Portal Road, the only way to the trail to the top of the tallest mountain in the continental United States. Last week, local Save Round Valley Alliance (SRVA) and regional Sierra Watch filed suit to stop the proposal from moving forward.

“This is the kind of development that threatens our local community and surrounding landscape,” said SRVA President Jennifer Fenton. “We're committed to ensuring a better future for the Sierra Nevada.”

The land in question has long served as the fictional location for Hollywood films — its iconic Sierra landscape provided the ideal backdrop for John Wayne westerns.

This week, it has been the site of its own drama.

On Monday, Walters sent out earth moving equipment to carve new roads through the desert sage.

Local conservationists rallied to protect the land and, by Tuesday afternoon, had enlisted their legal counsel, Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger, to seek an immediate court order to halt all development.

The Sierra Fund, a community foundation for the environment based in Nevada City which has spearheaded fundraising for the protection of Mt. Whitney, sent out an emergency e-mail which quickly raised nearly $10,000 necessary for the urgent effort.

“We are incredibly grateful to those who responded with contributions so quickly,” said Shawn Garvey, Director of Communications for The Sierra Fund. “Donors from throughout California — and as far away as Pennsylvania and Maryland — are responsible for funding this successful effort. Thank you for your generosity.”

By Thursday afternoon, representatives of the would-be developer reached an agreement with the attorneys for the conservation groups. In a new document filed with the court, Walters agreed to pull equipment off the land and halt all development, pending a court decision on the project, due in early 2006.

The Sierra Fund continues to seek an additional $12,000 to fully fund the litigation necessary to permanently halt the development project.

To contribute now to this campaign, please click here.

“This is a dramatic example of how those who care about the Sierra can work together to stop destructive development,” said Tom Mooers, executive director of Sierra Watch. “Now we can focus on reaching a collaborative agreement to protect this land forever.”

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For more information, please contact Shawn Garvey at The Sierra Fund at 530.265.8454 extension 12.

To contact Save Round Valley Alliance, please call Jennifer Fenton at 559.658.8189.

To contact Sierra Watch, please call Tom Mooers at 530.265.2849.