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76 Juan Palma’s decision and the release of the deis brought immediate responses; five letters arrived within the first two weeks. Three of the writers, one from the western slope of the Sierra and two from California ’s Central Valley, supported climbing. Their only objection to the proposal concerned the removal of the paved floor; all three suggested it be left in place. A husband and wife from Carson City, Nevada, wrote to ask Palma to reconsider and give maximum protection to the site. They worried that Native Americans might interpret his decision as denigrating their spiritual practices. The other letter came from the director of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, an organization that represented thirty-six Nevada groups, including unions, women’s groups, environmental groups, the aclu, the Trial Lawyers Association, Citizen Alert, and the naacp. The letter expressed the alliance’s “extreme disappointment ” in Palma’s decision to allow the continued desecration of “this uniquely holy Washoe site” and asked him to amend it rather than allow the Washoes to experience “yet another profound injustice.” Five of the six letters received in September 1999—two from North Lake Tahoe, two from South Lake Tahoe, and one from Idaho—supported climbing as well.1 Eight more letters arrived before the October deadline. Paul Minault, the Access Fund’s attorney, wrote to urge Palma to remain steadfast in his decision, contending that the process had included all stakeholders and reflected “great integrity.” Further, Minault stated that his group supported “voluntary” temporal restrictions on climbing that might allow Washoe practitioners to use the site. The other seven letters expressed support for the Washoes, and six were from notable entities urging Palma to revisit his decision. Robert Harris, who had held the position of forest supervisor now held by Palma, stated that the proposed alternative n i n e Reactions reactions 77 did not fully comply with laws protecting heritage resources and asked Palma how he could have selected an alternative that had significant environmental effects on a heritage resource.2 Washoe Chair Brian Wallace issued a lengthy rebuttal to the deis, which he argued, did not meet federal standards in addressing the adverse effects of climbing, did not sufficiently analyze potential adverse effects, and did not satisfy the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act that reasonable alternatives not within the lead agency’s jurisdiction be considered. This last, he remarked, could have meant considering an alternative that incorporated Washoe stewardship of the property. Wallace argued that Palma’s decision to allow climbing at Cave Rock raised significant equal protection questions because it gave the tribe’s historic and cultural site a lesser degree of protection than non-Washoe sites had received. He called the deis “a sad return to the way things used to be,” and urged Forest Service officials to refer the matter to the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation as mandated by the National Historic Preservation Act.3 Forest Service officials did not have to look far to find the Advisory Council’s opinion: the council had written after reviewing the deis. The council’s letter said that the document did not appear to sufficiently balance site usage with the interests of historic preservation. Palma’s preferred alternative weighed more toward protecting climbers’ rights than protecting historic values. Further consultation with the tribe, the council , and the other agencies and users should continue to search for an alternative that better protected Cave Rock’s historic values. The council also believed that the Establishment Clause concerns expressed in the deis were misplaced. A more protective alternative “would be secular,” the council wrote, “providing for the management of federal land in a way that protects historic properties.”4 A spokesperson for the Bureau of Land Management who had talked to Lisa O’Daly on the phone now wrote directly to O’Daly urging her to choose a different alternative: the one that would phase out climbing until all routes were removed and “lasting physical impacts were prohibited .” The Nevada State Historic Preservation Office weighed in as well, saying that the Forest Service needed to more fully address the fact that climbing was having significant effects on a historic property. The chief of the Federal Activities Office of the Environmental Protection Agency, Region IX, assigned a “Lack of Objections” rating to the deis. But he too 78 cave rock encouraged the Forest Service to continue consulting with the Washoe tribe “to ensure that the final decision is fully consistent...


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