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For Immediate Release, October 20, 2010

Contact: Rob Mrowka, (702) 249-5821 or

Suit Filed to Block ORVs From Key Species Habitat in California and Nevada

SACRAMENTO, Calif.— The Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit in federal court today challenging the U.S. Forest Service’s decision to allow off-road vehicles in sensitive areas in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest along the California-Nevada border. In March, the agency designated 220 miles of new motorized routes, including routes for SUVs, ATVs and motorcycles in the forest’s Bridgeport Ranger District.

The newly designated routes cross key habitat areas for federally protected Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep and Lahontan cutthroat trout, as well as habitat for pine marten and many other species. The routes include 11 new miles in sage-grouse nesting habitat and 79 new miles adjacent to streams. The Forest Service admits ORVs can hurt wildlife by disrupting behavior, crushing animals, tearing up habitat and impairing water quality for fish and frogs.

“We cannot allow the Forest Service to ignore its responsibilities to protect rare and imperiled species and their habitats,” said Rob Mrowka, the Center’s Nevada-based ecologist. “The streams, meadows, lambing and nesting areas, and other places without roads are critical for the conservation of these species.”

The Forest Service’s decision also includes 49 miles of new routes in federally designated “roadless areas.” Roadless areas offer large, uninterrupted expanses of wildlands that serve as habitat for wildlife, protection of water supplies and exceptional opportunities for quiet recreation. All such roadless areas were theoretically protected from new roads under the Clinton administration but have received only haphazard protection under President Barack Obama.

“The intrusion of noisy, exhaust-spewing off-road vehicles into roadless areas is completely at odds with the very values for which these areas were protected in the first place,” said Mrowka. “Overall, the agency glossed over the negative impacts increased ORV use will have on forest resources — tearing up soils, damaging stream banks and destroying or reducing the quality of wildlife habitat.”

With the addition of the 220 miles of new motorized routes, the total miles of routes opened to vehicle traffic on the Bridgeport Ranger District amounts to 1,510 miles – greater than the driving distance across the United States between its Mexico and Canada borders.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 315,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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