Thanks to all who helped save Mono Lake

  Dear HCN,

Regarding the anonymous letter, "Where Credit is Due" (HCN, 10/2/95), I'd like to clarify the litigative history that led to the "saving" of Mono Lake. As the letter correctly noted, the first limitation of water diversions from the Mono Basin was the product of lawsuits filed in 1984 by California Trout. The Mono Lake Committee and National Audubon Society joined in these lawsuits, which were based on enforcing California Fish and Game codes. But much more went into last fall's "victory" for the lake.

The decision to raise the level of Mono Lake rested as much on California's Public Trust Doctrine as the state's wildlife codes. Beginning in 1978, the Mono Lake Committee, National Audubon Society, Sierra Club, and many others sought protection for the lake's Public Trust values by challenging the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power's licenses to divert water. By 1983, the case had made it to the California Supreme Court, which ruled that the state has an obligation to protect public trust values such as "the purity of the air, the scenic views of the lake and its shore, the use of the lake for nesting and feeding birds."

It is impossible to give credit for the Mono Lake victory to one legal case, or one environmental group. In truth, it took multiple lawsuits, an extraordinary array of environmental groups and federal and state agencies, and, most importantly, a supportive and vocal public. It was this coalition, not a solitary organization, that ultimately brought about last fall's milestone in the ongoing effort to permanently protect Mono Lake.

Sally Miller

Lee Vining, California

The writer is a member of the Mono Lake Committee.

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