[OLYMPIC VALLEY, Calif.] Feb. 10, 2020 – Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows (Squaw Alpine) and Granite Chief Wilderness Protection League (the League) last week announced that they have reached a comprehensive agreement to dismiss the League’s lawsuit against the approval of the Squaw Alpine Base-to-Base Gondola. The agreement details protection measures for Sierra Nevada Yellow Legged Frog habitat and for the nearby Granite Chief Wilderness Area.
Specifically, the agreement conserves potential habitat for the Sierra Nevada Yellow Legged Frog and provides funding for its monitoring, research, and potential re-establishment. The agreement also provides funding for the conservation of lands within the Congressionally mapped boundaries of the Granite Chief Wilderness Area and places operational limits on the gondola operations to mitigate impacts to the Wilderness Area.
The League’s lawsuit against Placer County also named the United States Forest Service. The lawsuit was filed under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and challenged the adequacy of the environmental analysis and the County Board of Supervisor’s decision to approve the project. “As a high value Sierra wilderness area, the Granite Chief Wilderness needs ever more safeguards to ensure we leave such wild treasures for future generations,” stated Daniel Heagerty, director of the League. “Squaw Alpine has made significant and greatly appreciated commitments to minimize wilderness impacts and invest in important endangered species conservation efforts. We are very pleased with the Agreement we reached with Squaw Alpine.”
The agreement includes:
- The League agreed to dismiss its lawsuit against the Squaw Alpine Base-to-Base Gondola.
- Squaw Alpine agreed to conserve approximately 27 acres of the resort’s private property. These lands, which include pristine wetlands and deep natural ponds, have the potential to serve as habitat for the endangered Sierra Nevada Yellow Legged Frog.
- Squaw Alpine agreed to provide funding for the study and potential restoration of the Sierra Nevada Yellow Legged Frog, which was once one of the most abundant amphibian species in California, but has since neared extinction in the state due to habitat loss, fish introduction, climate change and disease.
- Squaw Alpine agreed to provide separate funding, to be held in trust by the Truckee Donner Land Trust, for the acquisition of private holdings within the Granite Chief Wilderness Area and high resource value lands and/or conservation easements. Land eligible for purchase with the funds include the area within and adjacent to the Granite Chief Wilderness.
- Squaw Alpine also agreed to operational limits for the gondola designed to mitigate potential noise, visual, and other impacts to the nearby Granite Chief Wilderness. This includes signage and strict enforcement of the ski area boundary at the KT-22 mid-station, and an annual gondola closing date of no later than April 30. The gondola will operate during the winter season only, when both Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows are in operation, or will stop operations by April 30th.
The League filed its lawsuit challenging the approvals in September 2019, and the agreement was reached in November. “We are very happy to have worked collaboratively with the League to address their concerns so that resources could be directed to environmentally beneficial purposes, rather than funding an extended lawsuit,” said Ron Cohen, president and chief operating officer of Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows. “We are eager to get going on this game-changing transportation project. We thank the League for its productive approach to resolving the dispute.”
The gondola will connect Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows, uniting over 6,000 acres of some of North America’s most iconic ski and snowboard terrain. “Squaw and Alpine are two very different resorts, but one thing they share in common is their guests’ amazing passion for skiing and riding,” Cohen continued. “We look forward to preserving the two unique cultures, while at the same time offering our guests the ability to experience both without having to get in a car or shuttle.”