Off-roaders will be pleased to get more dunes access
Off-road vehicle enthusiasts may soon have more space to roam in the sand dunes near Yuma.
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is looking at various options for allowing more access to the 215,000 acres of the Imperial Sand Dunes. Currently about 75,000 acres remain closed due to environmental concerns raised in past years.
When the acreage was closed, off-road groups complained and Yuma-area merchants joined them, saying it would hurt the local economy to discourage the many thousands of off-road enthusiasts from coming to our area from Southern California and other regions. The dunes are also very popular with local off-roaders.
Now it appears that decision could be reversed for as much as 40,000 of the 75,000 acres and that is likely to bring cheers locally if it actually happens.
Based on past experience, however, we would not count on a quick opening of the closed area.
Environmentalists, primarily from the Center for Biological Diversity in Tucson, fought long and hard to close the areas to motorized uses out of concern for the endangered milk vetch plant and a desire to conserve fragile desert areas. It is likely they will be equally diligent in fighting any effort to reopen the areas.
The center has already said the BLM option to open more land is counter to conservation plans being developed by California authorities and the U.S. Department of the Interior.
We believe the BLM is trying to find an appropriate middle ground that protects the most sensitive areas while permitting legitimate recreational use of public property.
If the federal agency is successful, it could prove beneficial economically for our area.