BLM resolution calls for more policing

December 11, 2001|By LAURA MITCHELL, Staff Writer

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management's Desert Advisory Council unanimously approved a resolution asking the state for more law enforcement at the Imperial Sand Dunes.

The resolution states law enforcement at the dunes has become inadequate considering the number of visitors.

The request follows the Thanksgiving holiday weekend where fewer than 40 law enforcement officers and federal agents patrolled 190,000 visitors at the dunes. Problems of lawlessness arose, including a gunfight, an attack on an officer and stabbing incidents.

More than 300 mostly recreational desert enthusiasts attended the council's 11-hour meeting Saturday at Southwest High School in El Centro, said Roy Denner, president of the Off Road Business Association and vice chairman of the council.

Others in the audience included environmentalists, rockhounds, miners, equestrians and hunters.

The 15-member council advises the BLM on Southern California desert public land policies. Two council members were absent from Saturday's meeting.


Except for agency name changes, the council's resolution is the same as one passed by the county Board of Supervisors last week.

County Supervisor Wally Leimgruber is a member of the council and said the county and BLM are still working to get a commitment of 300 law enforcement officers for the New Year's holiday.

Denner said Dave Widell, the state's off-highway motor vehicle deputy director, was at the meeting and said he was willing to help the BLM with law enforcement.

"Surprisingly there was no talk at the meeting about limiting visitors to the dunes," said Terri Weiner, conservation coordinator for the Desert Protective Council, who was in the audience during the meeting.

"The council is skewed to represent exploitative groups," Weiner said.

There are five positions on the council that are for the public-at-large, but the people in those positions represent mining, grazing, even tourism, Weiner said.

For example, of nine recommendations approved at the meeting, seven were passed by a vote of 11 to 2, she said. The two dissenting votes belonged to the only two environmentalists on the council, Bob Ellis of Berkeley and council chairwoman Ileene Anderson of West Hollywood, Weiner said.

Denner said the BLM does not have a good track record of following council recommendations. When suggestions are made, the council never hears back on why the recommendations are not followed, he said.

Dune users have seen areas open to off-road vehicles diminish by about 50 percent. One of Denner's resolutions recommended the BLM offset impacts of closures by opening other areas in the desert.

BLM El Centro field manager Gerg Thomsen said the agency would certainly address Denner's resolution.

>> Staff Writer Laura Mitchell can be reached at 337-3452 or

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