The Institute was the lead plaintiff in a case against the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) and the National Park Service (NPS). The case was meant to test whether those agencies violated public trust doctrine, common sense, and their responsibilities of stewardship in Yellowstone National Park by making agreements with private corporations to access and commercialize the biodiversity of that national park. The Institute won part of its case: in 1999, DOI was required to do an environmental assessment of proposed benefits-sharing policies in the National Park System. In 2006, the Department of Interior issued a draft environmental impact statement on the topic. Public comment was invited. Three years later, NPS replied to the thousands of comments it had received. In late 2009, the agency issued a Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and the public - after almost a decade of waiting - had the opportunity to judge whether its concerns had been addressed. The Institute, together with other groups, shared its continuing concerns in a press release and a long letter to Jon Jarvis, head of NPS.
If you wish to be informed of new developments related to benefits sharing, send your email address to <email@example.com> and put “New Benefits Sharing Details” in the subject line of your email.
Please note that this website does not include all the details of all the aspects of the Yellowstone case. Much of the legal struggle has involved litigation over the freedom of information and the Institute’s fight to discover what exactly was happening in the national parks.
For information on the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), see the FOIAdvocates website, http://www.foiadvocates.com/intro.html . That site is a project of two attorneys, one of whom - Daniel Stotter - is the FOIA advocate for the Edmonds Institute’s Yellowstone case.
For further (non-FOIA) details on the Yellowstone case, follow the links below:
- Why the Institute went to court
- Press Release: Yellowstone 125th Birthday Celebration Tainted (15 August 1997)
- Chronology: Legal Activities and Events, July, 1997 - May, 1998
- Press Release: Babbitt and Others Sued for Betrayal of Public Trust (5 March 1998)
- Press Release: Public Interest Wins in Yellowstone (24 March 1999)
- Text of U.S. Federal Court Judge Royce Lamberth's Memorandum Opinion in Edmonds Institute, et. al. v. Bruce Babbit, Secretary of the Department of the Interior, et. al. (24 March 1999) - PDF format, see here to download free software to read this file.
- Second Decision in the case of Edmonds Institute, et al. v. Babbitt, Civ. Docket No. 98-561, 04/12/2000 - The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia rules that the Yellowstone cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA) between the Department of the Interior and Diversa does not violate the Federal Technology Transfer Act.
- National Park Service Issues Draft EIS for Comment, 09/26/2006
After many years, the National Park Service begins compliance with the decision in Edmonds Institute, et al v. Babbit by releasing its Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) on the use of benefits-sharing agreements throughout the entire National Park System. Comments on the Draft were accepted through January 29, 2007.
- Press Release: National Park Service to Allow Commercial "Bioprospecting" in Parks; Public Interest Groups Cry Foul (22 September 2006), as the press release appeared on the website ParksNotForSale.org.
- Press Release: National Park Service Asks for Comment . . . and Groups Let Them Have It (6 December 2006)
- Edmonds Institute et al Comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (December 2006)
- National Park Service Issues Final Environmental Impact Statement (2009)
- Press Release: Parks "Benefits" Sharing Plan a Money Loser; Secret Royalty Deals Force Parks to Eat High Administrative Costs (16 December 2009)
- Edmonds Institute et al Letter of Concern to Jon Jarvis, Director of the National Park Service, 16 December 2009
The Yellowstone case has been covered by the New York Times, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Washington Post, Nature, Nature Biotechnology, Science, Associated Press, United Press International, ABC News, CNN, NPR and a host of other national, regional, and local newspapers, magazines, and media outlets.
See, for example (links provided where available):
"Park Deal: Some Call it 'Biopiracy'", Sunday, November 9, 1997, Salt Lake Tribune
"Judge Halts Yellowstone Bioprospecting, Ruling That Public Input Was Bypassed", Friday, March 26, 1999, Salt Lake Tribune
"Microbe Suit Puts Park in Hot Water", Friday March 6, 1998, Salt Lake Tribune
"Yellowstone: A Gold Mine of Microbes", Sunday, July 21, 1998, page 1, the Washington Post
"The Secretive Sale of Yellowstone's Natural Resources", May 31, 1998, In These Times
"Bid to block Yellowstone enzymes deal", March 1998, Nature, volume 392, page 117