Whitney Portal Update

Press Release from

Save Round Valley Alliance

September 28, 2006

Bishop, California

In the past few weeks, the controversy over the proposed Whitney Portal Preserve has received much needed attention and discussion. While not all of this attention has been positive, we at the Save Round Valley Alliance (SRVA) welcome the opportunity to reiterate our commitment to a prosperous and sustainable future for the Eastern Sierra and to a win-win resolution with respect to the “Preserve” in particular.

Local involvement in the controversy began in 2003, when ethics professor and part-time developer Jim Walters submitted a proposal to subdivide and develop a highly visible 74-acre parcel along the road to Mt. Whitney. While not located on the mountain itself, this parcel sits within the area discussed in the Inyo County General Plan as the defining example of a scenic “viewshed” that “should be preserved.” (General Plan sections 8.8.1 and 8.8.3).

Recognizing the threat that this “Preserve” posed to Inyo County’s resources, numerous local citizens, along with SRVA, commented publicly on the proposal as a part of the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) process. These citizens asked for correction of the numerous inadequacies in the report, and that the developer seriously considers a land trade.

Despite these inadequacies, the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors approved the project. This approval required a statement of overriding consideration for the scenic impacts that no mitigation can alleviate. SRVA, standing by its mission to “protect and enhance the quality of life in the Eastern Sierra through promotion of appropriate planning and development,” took further action. We filed suit in Inyo County Superior Court in September 2005, and following what SRVA believes was an erroneous decision made by the Court in July 2006, filed an appeal in the Fourth District Court of Appeal in Riverside, CA.

Meanwhile, SRVA continued to work towards a land trade for the 74-acre parcel through the compilation of a list of eight viable trade or buy out options (available on our website at www.srva.net). In the hope of finding resolution, SRVA and Sierra Watch enlisted the help of consultant Shawn Garvey who successfully opened discussions with Mr. Jim Walters and the American land Conservancy. Despite the complex and difficult nature of these land-trade negotiations, we have continued to come to the table in good faith because we believe that the best answer to this situation will not be found in the courtroom.

Mr. Walters recently offered to place a conservation easement on the rocky, sloped 30 acres across the road from the “Preserve” if SRVA would drop its appeal. Protecting this area would certainly be a good idea, but not if doing so would allow the “Preserve” to go forward. Only a land trade could resolve serious concerns regarding the pressing lack of workforce housing in Lone Pine and Inyo County, the high cost of providing county services far from town, and the scenic, biological, and hydrological impacts identified in the public comment process.

Based on recent articles in The Inyo Register, Mr. Walters’ interest in a land trade is wavering. SRVA and our allies, however, remain as committed as ever to exploring land trade options and welcome Mr. Walters back to the negotiating table.

Over the past two years, SRVA has benefited greatly from the support of many individuals and organizations, including local citizens from all walks of life, Sierra Watch, the Sierra Fund, and the Sierra Nevada Alliance. These partnerships have continued to grow in the past few weeks as we have endured challenges to our integrity and methodology. However, at our heart, we remain a volunteer group of concerned local citizens who care about the future of our region. We have chosen to invest our time, energy, and resources in this cause because we believe that our land and our values are at stake. In addition, we remain committed to a positive resolution that is fair to the landowner, invests in our community, and protects our irreplaceable landscape.

What you can do to help SRVA:

1. Write a letter to the editor of the Inyo Register (editor@inyoregister.com) or your local paper expressing your support of our efforts, your belief in a land trade, and your concern for the preservation of open space in the shadow of Mt. Whitney. The letter should express your own views in your own words, but if you need a brief synopsis of the facts, please email chancoc1@hotmail.com or check out www.savethemountain.org for more info.

2. Send postcards to friends! If you mail us a self-addressed, stamped envelope and a check for $2.00 at 757 Rome Drive, Bishop CA 93514, we’ll mail you 5 of our stylish new postcards that you can pass along to others to let them know what’s going on.

3. Make a donation. Many of you have already given generously in the past few months, but we can always use your support if the time is right for you.

4. Call your newspaper and ask them to pick up the story. Reporters can email srva@redjellyfish.net or call (559)658-8189 for more information.

5. Put a “Save the Mountain” bumper sticker on your car. Bumper stickers can be picked up at Natural Mystic at 104 N. Main St in Lone Pine or at Spellbinder Books in Bishop, or you can mail a SASE to the above address.