Voice: Press, others need to find out how much good dunes do for economy

February 19, 2002

Presidents' Day is here and with increased law enforcement the volume goes up denouncing environmentalists for destroying the local economy by limiting access to public lands.

I'd like to offer that a local economy depending on recreational activities of any kind that foul the air, poison the water and disproportionately siphon hospital and law enforcement services needs serious study, not finger- pointing designed to raise our blood pressure rather than ignite our reasoning minds.

Federal air and water quality standards and the Endangered Species Act were passed to provide a better quality of life for all citizens. Quality-of-life considerations include a sustainable economy, social equity and a healthy environment.

Cashed-strapped Imperial County has the highest asthma rate in the country and a seriously contaminated water supply. There are reasons for these conditions besides OHV activities like agricultural practices, mining extraction and roads and even the anticipated affects of the recently approved natural gas pipeline — all inputs need to be evaluated for their cumulative regional impact over time.


We need to know where OHV activities fit into the big picture, including if airborne dune dust significantly impacts regional air quality. We need to know how many tax dollars are spent annually by land management and law enforcement agencies to control a few dangerous drunken drivers. We need to know what went undone for lack of money or manpower. We need to know the impact busy weekends have on local hospitals and emergency services. We need to know how many families no longer feel safe coming to the Algodones Dunes and what happens to tourism when outlaw dune riders become international media events. Maybe the "looky-loos" balance the "go-elsewheres."

If closures are harming the economy, it needs quantifying. A healthy and sustainable economy is important and achievable with smart planning. It is time to get serious — get out of this paper bag of name-calling.

A special in-depth investigative edition of the I.V. Press that includes a total cost economic analysis would provide context for our controversies.

Hey, I.V. Press, will you do that for us?


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