April 15, 2003
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Bill Kresnak
Phone: (614) 856-1900
PICKERINGTON, OHIO -- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has issued an opinion that clears the way for the reopening of more than 49,000 acres of southern California desert closed several years ago to off-highway vehicle use.
In short, the federal agency said that the BLM`s plan to allow OHV use of the land doesn`t pose a risk to threatened and endangered species there, and that monitoring of the species should be done.
The reopening would partially reverse a closure enacted by the federal Bureau of Land Management in late 2000 that affected 49,305 acres in the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area, known to OHV enthusiasts as Glamis because of its proximity to that city in far southern California. The closure was part of an out-of-court settlement of a lawsuit filed by anti-access groups that alleged the BLM failed to properly consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service concerning the effects of the BLM-administered California Desert Conservation Area Plan on a number of threatened and endangered species.
The BLM`s Draft Recreation Area Management Plan for the Glamis area could be finalized as early as mid-summer, which would reopen riding areas.
As part of the out-of-court settlement, the BLM agreed to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service. As a result of that consultation and research, the Fish and Wildlife Service issued an opinion this month that states allowing OHV use "is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of (the threatened) Peirson`s milk-vetch" plant, and the desert tortoise.
The federal agency calls for monitoring the plant and tortoise populations to ensure they remain healthy.
Last year, the BLM released its Draft Environmental Impact Statement and Draft Recreation Area Management Plan for the Imperial Sand Dues Recreation Area that would reopen about 16,000 acres of the Glamis area to unrestricted OHV use. In addition, more than 33,000 acres would be reopened to limited use, with a restriction on the number of riders allowed. A maximum of 525 vehicles would be allowed each day in that area for a year while the BLM monitors the impacts on plants and animals. Changes would then be made on OHV use of the parcel, if necessary.
"This is a significant development for all the OHV enthusiasts who ride at Glamis," said AMA Western States Representative Nick Haris. "Under the terms of the California Desert Conservation Area Plan, open motorized recreation was restricted to less than 2 percent of the California Desert. With this closure, even that tiny amount was in danger of disappearing."
Glamis is an extremely popular recreation area for motorcyclists, ATV riders, four-wheel-drive vehicle enthusiasts and others. The BLM reports an estimated 100,000 people use the dunes some holiday weekends. The area is about 40 miles long, five miles wide, and has dunes that rise 300 feet above the valley floor.
The AMA "Save Our Trails" Fund, which ended this month, paid out more than $50,000 to AMA District 37 for legal expenses in the District`s battle to protect off-highway riding areas in California.
When the program began a year ago, the AMA pledged to match contributions dollar for dollar, up to $50,000. District 37 played an important role in the fight to reopen Glamis.
Issued April 15, 2003
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