Dunes may expand off-roading area
About 40,000 acres currently closed to recreation in the Imperial Dunes could be re-opened to off-roading enthusiasts under one of several possibilities outlined in a new plan drawn up by the Bureau of Land Management.
The proposal includes eight options for land management, with the alternative allowing the most off-highway vehicle, or OHV, use being the preferred plan for the Imperial Dunes, also known as the Algodones Dunes or Glamis.
Currently, about 75,000 acres are closed out of the roughly 215,000 that comprise the dunes. With the proposed switch, about 35,000 acres would remain closed.
The BLM, in its Recreation Area Management Plan for the Imperial Sand Dunes, said Alternative 8 “provides for management of each resource and resource use by establishing a balance between authorized resource use, and the protection and long-term sustainability of sensitive resources.” The agency described this option as a combination of features from several of the other possibilities.
The preferred option drew criticism from the Center for Biological Diversity, which said the option was at odds with a separate renewable energy conservation plan under development by California and the federal Department of the Interior.
“It's as though the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing. The BLM says it can be trusted to ensure lasting conservation in the California desert on the one hand — through the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan — and on the other hand announces plans to slash conservation in one of the rarest, most fragile desert habitats in North America,” said Ileene Anderson, a biologist and the Public Lands Desert Director for the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Algodones Dunes decision shows that BLM officials in California are either completely clueless or actually want to scuttle the renewable-energy plan.”
The preferred option also allows camping within designated areas of sensitive species and desert tortoise habitat, but would maintain some species protections in alternative energy projects. The critical habitat for the Peirson's milk vetch (a plant listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act) and the management area for the flat-tailed horned lizard would be excluded for solar and wind energy development. The option would also prohibit motorized recreation within the habitat for the milk vetch.
Visit http://ow.ly/e1ujY to read the extensive document outlining the alternatives.
Hillary Davis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6857. Find her on Facebook at Facebook.com/YSHillaryDavis or on Twitter at @YSHillaryDavis.