SAN FRANCISCO, CA (August 15, 2016) – A saga over 15 years in the making has ended well for common sense and dune riding access. The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals today rejected appeals from the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), and upheld the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) 2013 Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area (ISDRA) management plan. The Plan restored motorized dune vehicle access to most of the ISDRA areas closed on an “interim” basis in a 2001 settlement agreement. After nearly a decade of study and planning, BLM determined these areas were appropriate for dune vehicle riding.
Today’s opinion focused on Endangered Species Act, National Environmental Policy Act, and Clear Air Act challenges raised by anti-access advocates. In particular, the panel rejected CBD’s claim that impacts to federally-listed plants require an “incidental take statement” from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Instead, the Court upheld the Service’s long-standing practice of requiring incidental take statements only when federal actions affect wildlife, not plants. The Court also rejected CBD’s claim that the EIS prepared by BLM failed to take a “hard look” at the ISDRA plan’s air quality impacts.
A number of organizations supporting continuing dune riding access were parties in the case.
“We are thrilled by this decision,” said Jim Bramham, who holds leadership positions with several of the recreationist organizations, including the American Sand Association and California Association of 4 Wheel Drive Clubs. “We have had a long and sometimes frustrating relationship with BLM, but are relieved to see that this treasured ground will finally be managed in accordance with science and the law,” Bramham added.
The ISDRA, popularly known by many as “Glamis” for the small town within its boundaries, is located near the southern U.S. border in Imperial County, California, and spans roughly 167,000 acres. The litigation, first brought in 2000, has largely focused on potential impacts to the endangered Peirson’s Milk-vetch, a low-lying plant found primarily within the ISDRA. Over 26,000 acres of the ISDRA have been designated as Wilderness, where no vehicle access is allowed. The 2013 plan approved today would continue vehicle closures in PMV critical habitat, and allow some form of riding on about 127,000 acres. The Dunes are a prized destination for sand-riding enthusiasts throughout the country, and over 200,000 of them visit the area in a typical year.
The rider groups intervening in the case to assist in defense of the BLM plan included the American Sand Association, San Diego Off-Road Vehicle Association, Off-Road Business Association, American Motorcyclist Association District 37, California Association of 4 Wheel Drive Clubs, BlueRibbon Coalition, Desert Vipers, California Off-Road Vehicle Association, and High Desert Multiple Use Coalition, with funding and strategic support from EcoLogic Partners. The intervenor groups were represented by David Hubbard of Carlsbad, Paul Turcke of Boise, Idaho, and Dennis Porter of Sacramento.
As the lead organization fighting to keep the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area (ISDRA) open to OHV use, the American Sand Association’s primary objective is to “UNITE, INFORM and MOBILIZE” the sand duning community to protect the right to ride on all public lands in a responsible, environmentally balanced manner. (888) 540-7263 – https://americansandassociation.org/
The California Association of 4 Wheel Drive Clubs is a California nonprofit organization actively promoting conservation and responsible vehicle-oriented recreation. The Association represents over 8,000 members and 160 member clubs. 1-800-4×4-FUNN. www.cal4wheel.com
Sharetrails/BlueRibbon Coalition (BRC) is a national non-profit organization that champions responsible recreation and encourages a strong conservation ethic and individual stewardship, while providing leadership in efforts to keep outdoor recreation alive and well — all sports; all trails. With members in all 50 states, Sharetrails/BRC is focused on building enthusiast involvement with organizational efforts through membership, outreach, education and collaboration among recreationists. – http://sharetrails.org.