RULING PROTECTS CALIFORNIA DESERT LANDS
Judgement Overturns U.S. Bureau of Land Management Designation of More Than
5,000 Miles of Off-Highway Vehicle Routes in the California Desert
Eleven environmental organizations scored a huge victory in a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which manages 25 million acres of public land in southern California known as the California Desert Conservation Area (CDCA), which is home to numerous critical environmental, recreational and cultural resources, including many protected animal and plant species. The ruling, by the Hon. Susan Illston of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California impacts off-highway vehicle (OHV) routes established within the last 30 years, as well as the designation of future routes.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs, including Community ORV Watch, The Alliance for Responsible Recreation, California Wilderness Coalition, The Wilderness Society, Friends of Juniper Flats, Western San Bernardino Landowners Association, California Native Plant Society, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Sierra Club, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility and Desert Survivors argued that BLM's designation of OHV routes in the Western Mojave (WEMO) region of CDCA violates the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA) and the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA). These Acts assure that environmental considerations, such as impacts to wildlife, soils, watersheds, vegetation and cultural resources, must be carefully analyzed and minimized prior to BLM's designation of OHV routes. The groups were represented by Robert Wiygul, Skye Stanfield and the Center for Biological Diversity.
In its wide-reaching ruling, the Court held that BLM did not adhere to its own regulations in analyzing and minimizing environmental impacts during its designation of 5,098 miles of OHV routes in the Western Mojave in 2006. The Court also held that OHV route designations developed since 1980 are in violation of the CDCA Plan, which limits route designations to those in existence in 1980. The BLM has not adhered to that restriction, allowing development of hundreds of illegal OHV routes during the last three decades.
COW conducted ground-truthing surveys for the lawsuit that revealed that the routes actually encouraged trespass into private property and protected public lands. The court held that the BLM's environmental review failed to consider an adequate range of alternatives and was insufficient in its consideration of impacts to soil, cultural resources, certain plant and riparian resources, sensitive animal species, and air quality. This ruling means that the BLM must reconsider the destructive environmental impacts of OHVs on public lands in the Western Mojave region.
On Saturday, September 26th, the Barstow Office of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is organizing a large volunteer clean-up of the Poste Homestead Natural and Historical Area in Wonder Valley as part of their annual National Public Lands Day (NPLD). The BLM is partnering with local organizations including the Mojave Desert Land Trust, the Morongo Basin Conservation Association, the 29 Palms Historical Society, Community ORV Watch and ORV groups and vendors that promote responsible recreation including Hutchins Motor Sports of Yucca Valley.
Everyone is welcome to participate in the clean-up and each volunteer will receive a free T-shirt, a breakfast of coffee, tea and pastries, BBQ lunch and live music at The Palms Bar and Restaurant at 8131 Amboy Road in Wonder Valley located about 10 miles east of 29 Palms.
The Poste Homestead Natural and Historical Area is located off of Chadwick Road between Amboy Road and Highway 62 in Wonder Valley. Over 100 volunteers will help remove trash, protect 100 year-old adobe ruins, erect signs and place barriers to protect sensitive habitat and historical resources from illegal off-road vehicle activity. Local groups have been working to protect this historical and natural resource that is home to threatened wildlife species and magnificent displays of wildflowers in the spring.
The clean-up begins at 7:30am with pastries, coffee and tea at the parking lot of The Palms Bar and Restaurant. Volunteers will be shuttled from the parking lot to the Poste Homestead site, about 4 miles to the east. After the clean-up, a free BBQ lunch and free live music concert will be provided back at The Palms Restaurant . Organizations are invited to table at the program. Everyone is invited to participate at this fun and exciting event.
Community ORV Watch is funded in part by the Desert Legacy Fund.
The Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment today announced the winner of the 2009 Anthony Grassroots Prize, an annual $1,000 Earth Day cash award recognizing outstanding examples of grassroots environmental stewardship. The 2009 Anthony Grassroots Prize winner is Community ORV Watch, along with its founder, Phillip Klasky. Community ORV Watch will receive a $1,000 award from the Rose Foundation, which administers the Anthony Prize.
The Anthony Grassroots Prize was endowed by Juliette Anthony, a lifelong environmental activist who has received wide recognition for her work in protecting the Santa Monica Mountains, banning the toxic gasoline additive MTBE, promoting solar power, and publicizing the negative environmental impacts of ethanol, as well as her work as a legislative and regulatory consultant in renewable energy. Ms. Anthony, who chairs the prize jury, offered the following statement about this year's selection of Community ORV Watch. "Protecting the desert, both for the native species, plant and animal, who need our watchful protection, and for those who visit the desert for its peace, COW does essential work. We are delighted to award COW this year's Anthony Prize."
The Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment is a grantmaking public charity dedicated to supporting community-based initiatives to protect the environment and public health. For more information about the Anthony Prize, Prize Chair Juliette Anthony, or the Rose Foundation, visit www.rosefdn.org, or call (510) 658-0702.
Morongo Basin BLM Ranger Kevin MacLean is moving on to other position and will not be able to concentrate his law enforcement activities in the Morongo Basin.
Every holiday weekend, ORV riders trespass on BLM lands with limited or no enforcement. It is unacceptable that our public lands will be unprotected in the future.
After advocating for a resident ranger for over 3 years, the BLM has no immediate plans to replace MacLean.
Email or call BLM DESERT DISTRICT MANAGER Steven Borchard and tell him that we need a ranger dedicated to protecting our public lands in the Morongo Basin.
Email: Steven Borchard
The full US Senate Committee on Energy and Natural resources will be conducting a hearing to receive testimony regarding off-highway vehicle management on public lands.
You can view the hearing via webcast when it takes place on Thursday, June 5 at 6:30 AM Eastern Time via this link.
From the Hi-Desert Star, Friday April 11, 2007:
A public forum was held in Joshua Tree April 5 to explore strategies for protecting public lands and private property from off-road vehicle abuse.
The Desert Protection Summit was organized by the Community ORV Watch. The group is an assemblage of self-described “reluctant activists” who feel compelled to voice their opposition about what they see as a growing public menace.
Victoria Fuller, a longtime Joshua Tree resident, said the organization was formed by people who wanted to help make their areas more livable.
|9:30-9:40 AM||Welcome by Matt Leivas (Chemehuevi Indian Tribe)|
|9:40-9:50 AM||Phil Klasky and Pat Flanagan- introductions and logistics|
|9:50-10:00 AM||Desert Cahuilla Bird Singers|
Activists Panel -- Local Solutions by ARR members
|-Tom Eagan (Rangers for Responsible Recreation)
-Dave Van Voorhis (Friends of Juniper Flats)
-Douglas Parham (Western SB County Homeowners Assn.)
-Phil Klasky (Community ORV Watch)
-Terry Weiner (Desert Protective Council)
|10:45–11:00 AM||Ileene Anderson (Center for Biological Diversity) -- Impacts on Native Vegetation|
|11:00-11:15 AM||D'Anne Albers (Defenders of Wildlife) - Impacts on Desert Wildlife|
|11:15-11:30 AM||Pat Flanagan (Morongo Basin Conservation Association) – ATVs and Children’s Safety|
|11:30–11:45 AM||Karen Schambach (Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility) – Education and Law Enforcement|
|11:45-12:00 Noon||Audience Q and A with presenters|
|12:00-12:30 PM||LUNCH (provided – donations accepted)|
|12:30-12:40 PM||Desert Cahuilla Bird Singers|
|12:40-1:00 PM||Matthew Leivas and Cara McCoy, Chemehuevi Indian Cultural Center
- Impacts on Native American Lands
Meg Grossglass (Off-Road Business Assn) - Rider and Vendor Responsibility
|1:20-1:50 PM||Keynote Speaker: Dr. Howard Wilshire (Public Employees for Environmental
Responsibility) – ORVs, Nature and Time
|1:50-2:00 PM||Victoria Fuller (COW Steering Committee) – Report from Washington, DC|
|2:00-3:00 PM||Panel of local officials:|
|- Sgt. Rick Collins – SB County Sheriff’s Department
- Hugh Oram – SB County Code Enforcement
- Alex Meyerhoff – City of 29 Palms
- Ranger Mark Harris – Bureau of Land Management
- Daphne Greene – Deputy Director, State OHMVR Division
- Mary Ashley – SB County District Attorney
|3:00-3:30 PM||Audience Q and A with panel|
|3:55-4:10 PM||Brent Schoradt (California Wilderness Coalition) – OHV Grants Program|
|4:15-4:45 PM||Open mic|