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News Releases Print EmailFor Immediate Release: May 23, 2007Contact: Carol Goldberg (202) 265-7337“NEAR RIOT CONDITIONS” IN UTAH OFF-ROAD GATHERING — Irresponsible ORV Use Becoming Major Law Enforcement ChallengeWashington, DC — An Easter weekend gathering of a thousand off-road vehicle enthusiasts degenerated into “near riot conditions” in a Utah recreational area, according to an incident summary released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). More than 37 injuries, including a state Highway Patrol officer, led to the issuance of 300 arrests or citations by the more than 50 officers who were called to the scene from state, federal and local law enforcement agencies.Large assemblages of off-road vehicle (ORV) users are becoming an increasingly severe law enforcement problem on public lands, particularly over holiday weekends. In this incident, many of the 35,000 visitors to the Little Sahara Recreation Area in Utah were terrorized by inebriated gangs of ORV riders during the weekend of April 6, 7 and 8. According to an official summary:“Officers were faced with near riot conditions on two separate nights involving approximately 1,000 people which required all available officers and over 5 hours to mitigate the situation… Groups of partiers were blocking an area and forcing women to bare their breasts in order to leave, along with numerous incidents of unwanted fondling of women. When law enforcement officers took action, the crowd became unruly, throwing objects at the officers.”“This sort of out-of-control behavior should not be tolerated anyplace, let alone on our public lands,” stated PEER Southwest Director Daniel R. Patterson, who formerly worked with the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the agency responsible for the Little Sahara Recreation Area. “Families should be able to visit national recreational areas without worrying about being subjected to sexual assault or confrontations with packs of drunken rowdies.”Because of the vast desert acreages under BLM control, those lands have become the haunts for ever- larger convocations of ORV users. Pervasive alcohol and drug use contributes to growing injuries, not only to riders but to bystanders and to law enforcement officers responding to incidents. In addition to the public safety toll, these mega-gatherings wreak havoc on desert landscapes, with streams of riders often ignoring trail markers or other measures designed to keep ripping tires off of fragile wildlife habitats. The problem is not confined to the BLM. The U.S. Forest Service also reports rising attacks on its rangers in connection with ORV encounters. ORVs allow deeper penetration into remote, formerly wild, areas by people seeking to escape social restrictions, often leading to destructive acts.“Our rangers are not equipped to deal with hordes of mechanically mounted maniacs,” added Patterson, noting that while BLM has admitted the incident, it has tried to downplay it and has yet to change any area use policies or practices. “This destructive trend in off-roading blurs the line between recreation and riots –with visitors and rangers stuck in the middle.”PEER is investigating the Little Sahara incident as part of a national probe into the public safety and law enforcement costs arising from reckless ORV use.
OFF-ROAD POLITICS BENDING CALIFORNIA PARK PROTECTIONS — Conservation Groups Warn State to Tread Lightly in State ParksSacramento — Several conservation organizations, increasingly dismayed by the growing influence of the small but wealthy and influential off-road lobby, have signed a letter to Ruth Coleman, Director of California Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR), Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Senator Dianne Feinstein, demanding an end to interference by DPR’s Off-Highway Vehicle Division (OHV) in state parks resource decisions.The letter cites emails obtained by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) under a Public Records Act request, confirming intervention by OHV Division Director Daphne Greene, who blocked adoption of a long-overdue General Plan Amendment for Red Rock Canyon State Park, because off-roaders didn’t like the plan. The letter also cites Greene’s objecting to road closures for resource protection requested by State Parks resources staff, which resulted in continuing damage to a valuable archaeological site. Senator Feinstein’s Desert Protection Act transferred Red Rock Canyon’s Last Chance Addition from the Bureau of Land Management to DPR in 1994, primarily to ensure protection of its vast cultural resources from off-road vehicles. State Parks initiated a General Plan Amendment for management of the area, but a stakeholder plan, which was to go to the Parks and Recreation Commission in December 2005, was held up when off-roaders complained to Greene about road closures. The General Plan process was allowed to wither, and with it the management of Red Rock Canyon’s spectacular geologic formations, rare desert riparian areas, and rich cultural resources. The net result has been absence of a management plan 13 years after state park acquisition and the gradual transformaton of this unique landscape into an off-road Mecca. Pressure from conservationists over the past two years resulted in a promise by DPR for a new General Plan process. The groups do not want a repeat of the Off Highway Division’s historic interference.Karen Schambach, California Director for Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) points out, “It is absolutely outrageous that the Director would allow OHV interests to undermine the recommendations of Department resource specialists. With three off-road open areas and over 800 miles of roads surrounding Red Rock Canyon State Park, the desires of one California recreation community should not take precedence over the needs and interests of all others. California State Parks should honor the Congressional vision that these lands should be managed “to provide maximum protection for the area’s scenic and scientific values.” The OHV Division has an annual budget of $55 million, primarily from transfers from the state’s fuel tax. That budget will increase dramatically if the legislature passes SB742 this session.“Apparently money really does talk. In this instance it spoke more loudly than the agency's duty to protect important resources and public lands for the majority,” said Chris Kassar, a wildlife biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The previous effort to provide timely and essential protection for this special place was hijacked by wealthy off-road interests and we are committed to ensuring this doesn't happen a second time.”Desert Protective Council Conservation Coordinator Terry Weiner observed, “Surveys conducted by State Parks document that only 15% or so of California’s recreating public indicate that they indulge in ORV recreation as their favorite recreation and that 85% instead head to California state parks and other public lands to bird-watch, hike, camp, fish and hunt. They deserve to be able to visit Red Rock Canyon State Park and experience the unique desert formations and tranquility for which the park was established. We expect our State Park managers to protect the irreplaceable resources entrusted to their care.”
Officers were faced with near riot conditions on two separate nights involving approximately 1,000 people which required all available officers and over 5 hours to mitigate the situation
Groups of partiers were blocking an area and forcing women to bare their breasts in order to leave, along with numerous incidents of unwanted fondling of women. When law enforcement officers took action, the crowd became unruly, throwing objects at the officers.
terrorized by inebriated gangs
Wow!! Wheelers are the devil!! Sure sucks when a small group makes us all look like jackasses. I'm sure that article was blown WAY out of proportion but I'm sure there were some dipshits acting like morons too.
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