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Supreme Court of the United States
November 17, 1971, Argued ; April 19, 1972, Decided
[*728] [***639] [**1363] MR. JUSTICE STEWART delivered the opinion of the Court.
The Mineral King Valley is an area of great natural beauty nestled in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in Tulare County, California, adjacent to Sequoia National Park. It has been part of the Sequoia National Forest since 1926, and is designated as a national game refuge by special Act of Congress. 1 Though once the site of extensive mining activity, Mineral King is now used almost exclusively for recreational purposes. Its relative inaccessibility and lack of development have limited the number of visitors each year, and at the same time [****4] have preserved the valley's quality as a quasi-wilderness area largely uncluttered by the products of civilization.
[*729] The United States Forest Service, which is entrusted with the maintenance and administration of national forests, began in the late 1940's to give consideration to Mineral King as a potential site for recreational development. Prodded by a rapidly increasing demand for skiing facilities, the Forest Service published a prospectus in 1965, inviting bids from private developers for the construction and operation of a ski resort that would also serve as a summer recreation area. The proposal of Walt Disney Enterprises, Inc., was chosen from those of six bidders, and Disney received a three-year permit to conduct surveys and explorations in the valley in connection [***640] with its preparation of a complete master plan for the resort.
The final Disney plan, approved by the Forest Service in January [****5] 1969, outlines a $ 35 million complex of motels, restaurants, swimming pools, parking lots, and other structures designed to accommodate 14,000 visitors daily. This complex is to be constructed on 80 acres of the valley floor under a 30-year use permit from the Forest Service. Other facilities, including ski lifts, ski trails, a cog-assisted railway, and utility installations, are to be constructed on the mountain slopes and in other parts of the valley under a revocable special-use permit. To provide access to the resort, the State of California proposes to construct a highway 20 miles in length. A section of this road would traverse Sequoia National Park, as would a proposed high-voltage power line needed to provide electricity for the resort. Both the highway and the power line require the approval of the Department of the Interior, which is entrusted with the preservation and maintenance of the national parks.
Representatives of the Sierra Club, who favor maintaining Mineral King largely in its present state, followed the progress of recreational planning for the valley [*730] with close attention and increasing dismay. They unsuccessfully sought a public hearing on [****6] the proposed development in 1965, and in subsequent correspondence with officials of the Forest Service and the Department of the Interior, they expressed the Club's objections to Disney's plan as a whole and to particular features included in it. In June 1969 the Club filed the present suit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, seeking a declaratory judgment that various aspects of the proposed development [**1364] contravene federal laws and regulations governing the preservation of national parks, forests, and game refuges, 2 and also seeking preliminary and permanent injunctions restraining the federal officials involved from granting their approval or issuing permits in connection with the Mineral King project. The petitioner Sierra Club sued as a membership corporation with "a special interest in the conservation and the sound maintenance of the national parks, game refuges and forests of the country," and invoked the judicial-review provisions of the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U. S. C. § 701 et seq.
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405 U.S. 727 *; 92 S. Ct. 1361 **; 31 L. Ed. 2d 636 ***; 1972 U.S. LEXIS 118 ****; 2 ELR 20192; 3 ERC (BNA) 2039
SIERRA CLUB v. MORTON, SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR, ET AL.
Prior History: [****1] CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT.
Disposition: 433 F.2d 24, affirmed.
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Administrative Law, Judicial Review, Reviewability, General Overview, Civil Procedure, Justiciability, Standing, Personal Stake, Constitutional Law, Case or Controversy, Preliminary Considerations, Standing, Environmental Law, Administrative Proceedings & Litigation, Judicial Review, Injury in Fact