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Voice: Local Green Party chapter supports dunes partial closure

April 23, 2002

The Green Party of Imperial County would like to register its strong support in favor of the partial closure of the Imperial Sand Dunes. We believe the settlement that created the interim closures is reasonable and respects the dunes as a recreational area as well as a unique and fragile habitat.

The Imperial Sand Dunes are the only habitat in the United States where the Peirson's milk vetch grows.

Being on the endangered species list, in the case of the milk vetch, is justifiably related to where the plant grows rather than the number of plants that may be present in that relatively small area. In this sense, it doesn't matter how many milk vetch can be counted, but rather in how many other locations does it grow. The answer to that question may very well be zero and thus the need to protect at least part of the dunes.

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Over 80,000 acres are still "open" at the Imperial Sand Dunes. The area remains one of the largest of its kind and continues to attract a large volume of visitors. The term, "open area" as defined by the Bureau of Land Management, means that motorized vehicles can travel anywhere and everywhere, over anything and everything. Who really believes the average off-road vehicle user stops and yields to the local plant life?

More than 50,000 additional acres of designated "open area" exist in other parts of Imperial County. There is also an additional 800,000 acres designated as "limited-use area" in Imperial County. These areas are also open to off road vehicles, so long as they stay on trails. The Imperial Sand Dunes partial closure represents only 5 percent of the lands available to off-road vehicles in Imperial County.

We feel that many Imperial County residents have been misled by special interest groups dedicated to the off-road recreational vehicle industry and users. These groups have made unsupported claims regarding our economy and do not support any closure in the area.

The dunes are still attracting record numbers of visitors, despite the partial closure, as is duly noted by local law enforcement agencies. It is important to recognize this area as a unique and fragile habitat not just to the Peirson's milk vetch but also too many other vulnerable plant and animal species. The once prevalent sidewinder can now scarcely be found.

The Imperial Sand Dunes are a culturally significant area for local Native American people. The dunes are mentioned in ancient songs of the Quechan. The milk vetch plant itself is known to be a medicinal plant.

The Green Party of Imperial County believes a settlement is an appropriate manner to resolve public issues. The settlement, which has brought us to this "partial closure," is fair and effective in preserving the Imperial Sand Dunes as a recreational area and as a unique and fragile habitat. The "partial closure" that currently exists came as a result of a reasonable and legal settlement process and should not be circumvented by special interest groups nor our own local politicians. Thank you for your consideration.

ROBERT HOLZMAN

Board member

Green Party of Imperial County

Ocotillo

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