Author Topic: Most Of The Time We lose..... WE WIN!!! At Imperial Sand Dunes  (Read 1017 times)

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Federal officials refuse to restrict off-road use

DUNES: Environmental groups say they likely will challenge Monday's controversial decision

10:00 PM PDT on Monday, August 21, 2006

The Press-Enterprise

In the latest wrangling over the Southern California desert's most popular off-roading area, federal wildlife officials decided against protecting 16 insects that live among the wind-carved dunes.

2002 / The Press-Enterprise
Federal wildlife officials denied a petition by environmental groups to protect 16 insects at the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area. 
Environmental groups said Monday they likely would challenge the decision, and riding enthusiasts said they were relieved.

Grant George, who owns a dune-buggy shop in Rialto, said he feared that if the jewel beetles, sand wasps and velvet ants had received protection under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, it could have lead to further restrictions at the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area.

It was an attempt to "use the Endangered Species Act as a tool to close public land, and we're pleased the federal government made a sound, scientific analysis," said George, who is president of the American Sand Association, which has been active in keeping the dunes open for riding.

Some 50,000 acres, or about one-third of the dunes -- also known as Glamis and Algodones -- were closed six years ago to protect a rare plant that grows on the towering hills that stretch 40 miles from the Mexican border in Imperial County.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in denying the request by the Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity and other environmental groups on Friday, said their petition lacked enough information about the insects for the agency to consider the issue further.

The range, habitat and population trends of the insects were lacking and there was no direct evidence that off-road vehicle use specifically threatens them, the agency said.

"We look at the petition and what is provided in support of that petition, and that is the petitioner's job," Jane Hendron, an agency spokeswoman, said Monday.

"It doesn't mean that's all we do; we do look at information in our files, but it does not trigger the Service to do an exhaustive search of information," she said.

Daniel Patterson, with the Center for Biological Diversity, agreed there is limited information but said the insects are a unique part of the dune's ecosystem and that they rely on plants that could be damaged by the vehicles.

"There's no doubt, and common sense tells you, they are threatened by the intensive off-roading at the dunes," Patterson said.

Patterson said the six years of legal wrangling on the dunes would stop on the environmental side if the U.S. Bureau of Land Management would keep the areas closed to protect the plants.

"My feeling, as an ecologist, is there would be enough conservation lands for all the wildlife at Algodones Dunes to survive and recover," he said.

The BLM had proposed to reopen those areas closed in 2000 for the Peirson's milk-vetch, a plant threatened with extinction, but a judge struck down the plan in March. The BLM is awaiting a judge's ruling on a related report by the federal wildlife agency to see if those areas can be reopened, said Stephen Razo, a BLM spokesman.

Reach Jennifer Bowles at 951-368-9548 or
The Ghost-Rider/Ghost Runner

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