A document distributed by Andy Wirth and Troy Caldwell this week seems to suggest that Squaw Valley Ski Holdings now recognizes that the proposed new gondola route does indeed pass through the Granite Chief Wilderness. For several days following the announcement of the SquAlpine gondola, Wirth had insisted in major media reports that multiple surveys had been conducted to show that the gondola route would avoid the wilderness designated area.
“His fundamental claim is fundamentally incorrect,” Andy Wirth, in response to Tom Mooers of Sierra Watch’s assertion that the gondola route was within the wilderness boundary.
It now appears that it’s Wirth that was incorrect regarding the actual boundary of the wilderness designation.
Maps released by Sierra Watch last week showed that the boundary line for the Granite Chief Wilderness area did indeed extend into Troy Caldwell’s property. That statement was supported by USFS ranger Joanne Roubique, whom stated that although the boundary was within the White Wolf property, the wilderness restrictions were not enforceable on private property.
The original source of documents that seem to dispute Wirth’s statement is unclear, but it appears to have been written by Squaw’s legal team. The document goes to great lengths to say that although the Granite Chief wilderness designated boundary is located within the White Wolf property, it is exempt from enforcement as it is private property. Several examples of the Caldwell’s use of the wilderness property are cited, including the use of snowcats and snowmobiles and the partial construction of the White Wolf lift.
Here’s the link to the document regarding the Granite Chief Status.
It’s clear from the PDF that Squaw Valley Ski Holdings may be legally entitled to ignore the wilderness designation and develop the property as a part of the gondola route. The larger question does deal with the environmental integrity of that choice. Wirth has repeatedly painted himself and Squaw Valley Ski Holdings as environmentally sensitive. SVSH’s manipulation of the media in this case suggests that the environmental protections offered by the wilderness designation of the Five Lakes area are very low on the list of priorities.
We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect. -Aldo Leopold