The first of six public hearings on the much debated draft management plan released late last month for the Imperial Sand Dunes is scheduled for Tuesday in El Centro.
Environmentalists criticized the plan and the environmental study it was based on because it proposes to reopen half of the 49,300 acres closed to vehicles last fall. The closure was part of a settlement with environmental groups after they sued the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, which oversees the dunes.
The Center for Biological Diversity, the Sierra Club and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility sued the BLM to force it to comply with the Endangered Species Act. Endangered and threatened species found in the Imperial Sand Dunes include the desert tortoise and the purple-flowered Peirson's milk vetch.
Dunes recreationalists, who want open access to the dunes, are unhappy with the draft plan because it calls for curfews or limits the number of users in certain areas and limits the use of alcohol to camping areas only.