Five Environmental Groups Come Together In Protecting The Granite Chief Wilderness

The proposed gondola connection certainly has become a test of our core values. To the casual Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows skier, it is easy to jump on the bandwagon of support for the project, thinking how cool it might be to avoid the shuttle between Alpine Meadows and Squaw Valley. For some of us, we have fought too long and hard to protect what little wilderness area still exists in the Tahoe area – and the proposed gondola project does not change those core values. Then there’s that large population of people that wonder why we even need a gondola connection, and why doesn’t Squaw Valley Ski Holdings invest in more meaningful uphill transportation. We’ve reported and expressed opinions on the different angles several times over the last few months.

This week, five local environmental groups came together to protect the Granite Chief Wilderness. While there’s been a lot of conjecture about the meaning of a wilderness boundary that exists on a piece of privately held property, these groups believe in one basic tenet. The fact that the boundary exists and was created with the intention to preserve that land for everyone – past, present and future – should be paramount in the use of the land. Together, the five groups wrote a letter directly to Squaw Valley CEO Andy Wirth, and property owner Troy Caldwell.

At, we’re proud of the efforts of these groups and some dedicated individuals that are willing to challenge the proposal based on the core values of protecting the Granite Chief Wilderness for everyone.

Here’s the letter in its entirety:

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July 28, 2015

  • Andy Wirth
  • Squaw Valley Ski Holdings
  • 1960 Squaw Valley Road
  • Olympic Valley, CA 96146
  • Troy Caldwell
  • P.O. Box 1784
  • Tahoe City, CA  96145

Dear Messrs. Wirth and Caldwell,

On July 2nd Squaw Valley sent out an email announcing that you intend to submit a formal proposal for a gondola connecting Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows.

According to the map and materials released on April 13, 2015, the proposed route would cut through land designated as wilderness by the California Wilderness Act of 1984.

We are writing to request that, if you do follow through with an actual project proposal, you choose a route that avoids federally designated wilderness.

The Wilderness Act of 1964 is one of the greatest achievements in the proud history of American conservation.  It’s a bold statement of principle that we, as a country, value wilderness and are committed to protect the wilderness experience, for ourselves and generations to follow.

In the words of the Act itself, passed by Congress after years of advocacy and effort, “A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.”

When it was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson the Wilderness Act secured immediate protection of more than 9,000,000 acres of federally designated Wilderness.  It also created provisions to add, by acts of Congress, more land to the federal wilderness system.

After more than a decade of careful inventory, as well as five years of Congressional politicking, President Ronald Reagan signed the California Wilderness Act of 1984 into law.  It added 3,000,000 acres to the National Wilderness Preservation System, including the newly created Granite Chief National Wilderness Area.

At that time, significant portions of these lands, including more than a third of Granite Chief were privately owned.  To encourage their permanent protection, Congress simultaneously authorized the Secretary of Agriculture to purchase any private lands within the newly created Wilderness Area boundaries from willing sellers.  The bulk of the privately owned land in the Granite Chief Wilderness was acquired by the Forest Service in 1991, but a small portion of the area, including the land proposed for the gondola, remains in private hands.

We understand that these cliffs, ridges, and forests on which the gondola would be built are privately owned.  However, the inclusion of this land within the Granite Chief Wilderness Area boundary in 1984 is a clear statement of its value to our nation; that we recognize that this land is special − and should remain that way.

Wilderness designations do not come easy.  Each marks its own remarkable achievement, the result of years of field research, citizen advocacy, and, often, political compromise.

The original Wilderness Act of 1964 demanded scores of re-writes and nine years of Congressional history.  Its principal author, Howard Zahniser, was motivated by his conviction that America has “…a profound fundamental need for areas of the earth where we stand without our mechanisms that make us immediate masters over our environment.”

We ask you to join us in honoring that commitment, made as a nation more than fifty years ago and reaffirmed by the California Wilderness Act of 1984:  No proposed gondola should threaten the existing boundaries − and timeless values − of the National Granite Chief Wilderness Area.


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  • cc:  Placer County
  •        United States Forest Service
  •        KSL Capital Partners
  •        Tahoe Regional Planning Agency

We think their thinking is right on, and we hope to see the community rally behind the cause…

The Gipper would be proud...
The Gipper would be proud…

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