We generally support the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in the drafting of its area management plan for the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area. The plan calls for reopening at least half of the sand dunes areas closed last fall to vehicles as part of a settlement with environmental groups.
A total of 49,300 acres was closed to vehicles to protect the purple-flowered Peirson's milk vetch, an endangered species. We understand the concern by environmental groups, but the milk vetch has survived years of dunes' use and will likely survive many more years of off-roading. In fact, the plant seems to do as well in unprotected areas as protected areas, according to studies
There are some critical issues that must be addressed when considering dunes use. First, the dunes on many weekends, particularly Thanksgiving and Memorial Day, are filled with a population larger than Imperial County. Trying to squeeze that kind of crowd into a smaller area is a recipe for disaster, as seen during the last Thanksgiving holiday.