Voice: Feds need to do their part for law enforcement in dunes

January 04, 2002

The California Department of Parks and Recreation would like to clarify the state's longtime role in assisting local and federal agencies in their law enforcement efforts, particularly as it applies to the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area.

Even though the state maintains no ownership of the dunes or legal management responsibilities for the area, State Parks recognizes the need to partner with others, particularly law enforcement agencies, for the safety of those who visit or work at the dunes.

It is for that and other reasons that under the leadership of the Davis administration, the state has substantially increased grants to support local off-highway vehicle law enforcement efforts statewide. For example, local agency OHV law enforcement grants increased statewide from $460,000 in 1999 to $1,613,000 in 2000, a 350 percent increase.

For those who may be unaware of the state's role at Imperial Sand Dunes, the state provides more management funding for that area than does the federal Bureau of Land Management, the very agency that maintains the ultimate responsibility for management of the area. Based on grant funding applications from the BLM, more than 50 percent of the area's annual budget comes from state OHV funds and has for more than a decade.


Since the beginning of the state's grant program, California has provided more than $19 million to assist the BLM with off-highway vehicle management at Imperial. Law enforcement funding to the BLM increased from $148,000 in 1999 to $292,000 in 2000, an increase of 97 percent.

Prior to the Davis administration, Imperial County received no off-highway vehicle grants for law enforcement. But that has changed. With the encouragement of the Davis administration, the Imperial County Sheriff's Office submitted and received grants in 2000 for $285,000 for staffing and OHV enforcement equipment. In 2002 the administration is recommending the full amount requested by the Imperial County sheriff — $326,000 for additional equipment and staffing.

It is important to note that according to the Imperial County Sheriff's Office, none of the approximate $7 million county law enforcement budget is specifically allocated for law enforcement at Imperial Sand Dunes. The only funds used within Imperial Sand Dunes are state OHV grant funds.

To help meet immediate needs the state has brought in the Office of Emergency Services and the California Highway Patrol to assist in coordinating law enforcement efforts. State Parks is assisting by providing additional vehicles and officers. At the same time the Off-Highway Motor Vehicle recreation division staff continues to work with Imperial County and BLM to identify additional potential available funding sources to assist with funding law enforcement.

The state recognizes county resources are limited. And while the state has quadrupled its funding assistance to aid in law enforcement at Imperial Sand Dunes, state funding is not the only solution. In the long term the federal government needs do its part and begin matching the state's substantial increases in law enforcement funding to properly manage the Imperial Sand Dunes. It is encouraging that the BLM is now moving in that direction.


Deputy director

California State Parks,

Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Division


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