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Voice: Greens offer off-roaders a lump of coal

December 26, 2001

As I prepared to enjoy this Christmas holiday with my family, a recent news release issued by the Center for Biological Diversity came across my desk. It contained a not so thinly veiled threat from the legal strong-arm of the national green movement to use the Endangered Species Act to eliminate all motorized recreation after this holiday season on the Imperial Sand Dunes.

Managed by the Bureau of Land Management, this 170,000-acre off-highway vehicle recreation area was to remain open in perpetuity in exchange for the federal

government designating over 7 million acres as wilderness in the California desert and closing those lands to all forms of motorized and mechanized recreational activities.

The OHV community and even mountain bikers who like desert riding were told they could take comfort because the dune area would be open forever.


William Perry Pendly, a noted land-use legal scholar, once said, "The purpose of the ESA has become stopping

all activities of which the environmental extremists disapprove." Off-roaders in the SoCal desert have become acutely aware of that fact considering the lawsuit filed last year by CBD that closed half of this popular recreation area because the greens said they wanted to "protect" the endangered Pierson's milkvetch.

The OHV community can no longer take such threats lightly considering that CBD and other green groups are pushing an aggressive legal effort to ban most motorized recreational activity on public lands, including a recent lawsuit filed by the Sierra Club to shut down the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area on the Central Coast of California.

Combined with the BLM's closure of Black Sands Beach in the King Range National Conservation Area in Northern California and U.S. Fish and Wildlife's proposed protection for the snowy plover on the entire West Coast, the outlook for continued OHV access to beach fun has become a "threatened and endangered" activity.

Bruce Babbitt, former secretary of the Interior and icon of the modern environmental movement, was quoted as saying, "Our collective moral imperative" has been translated "into one landmark law: the 1973 Endangered Species Act."

With plant populations of the Pierson's milkvetch thriving in the entire dune area, I think many OHV users believe the plant is not really the issue. In fact, a petition has been filed by local recreation groups to delist the milkvetch as an endangered species because of the plant's vibrant growth this year, even in areas used by dune buggies and all-terrain vehicles.

Andy Stahl, a Sierra Club activist in 1988, said, "The northern spotted owl is the wildlife species of choice to act as a surrogate for old-growth protection and I've often thought that thank goodness the spotted owl evolved in the Northwest, for if it hadn't we'd have to genetically engineer it. It's the perfect species to use as a surrogate."

As thousands of Americans who are spending their Christmas vacation at the Imperial Dunes are having fun with their families, I hope they will find in their stockings an olive branch instead of a lump of coal.



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