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For Immediate Release, September 4, 2012

Contact: Cyndi Tuell, (520) 623-5252 x 308

Forest Service Shirks Environmental Review for Large Arizona ORV Rally

EAGER, Ariz.— A six-day off-road vehicle rally that started today in Arizona’s Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest was tacitly authorized by U.S. Forest Service officials without analysis or approval under the National Environmental Policy Act and Endangered Species Act.

The Center for Biological Diversity, which works to reduce environmental destruction caused by ORV use on public lands, voiced numerous concerns about the “Outlaw Jamboree” — most recently in a letter dated Aug.14, 2012 — to the Forest Service. The event threatens to damage lands affected by the Wallow fire and subsequent flooding, including valuable habitat for Mexican spotted owls and Mexican gray wolves. It is now exploring legal options to ensure the event does not irrevocably harm local wildlife.

“The Forest Service is turning a blind eye to the impacts that a large, organized motorized event could have on fragile habitat for Mexican spotted owls, Mexican gray wolves, and dozens of other species already hurt by the Wallow fire,” said Cyndi Tuell, Southwest conservation advocate at the Center.

In addition to environmental analyses, Forest Service rules require a “special use permit” for recreational events where a fee is charged. The jamboree is charging up to 500 participants between $100 and $150 each to participate in events, including organized rides on Forest Service roads and trails. Past jamborees have included hundreds of participants driving off-road vehicles on forest trails.

“Given hundreds of people driving noisy ORVs through fragile habitat, the Forest Service should follow the law and assess the impacts on land, wildlife and other forest users seeking a quiet retreat in the woods,” said Tuell. “The Forest Service’s refusal to require permits and analyses gives new meaning to the name Outlaw Jamboree. That’s for sure.”

Hikers seeking to use Forest Service trails for purely volunteer hikes — where no fees are charged at all — have recently been required to pay for special-use permits. “It’s absurd that people who simply want to hike in the woods on open trails and educate themselves on native wildlife like wolves are forced to obtain expensive permits, while this large-scale, commercially sponsored event is blithely allowed to skirt the laws that protect our shared resources,” said Tuell. 

The Forest Service plans to monitor the off-road event. Monitoring and law-enforcement costs are usually recovered when event organizers obtain proper permits; yet because the Forest Service failed to require a permit for this event, taxpayers will bear the costs of monitoring. Liability for any injuries to participants could also fall to the Forest Service and taxpayers.

Said Tuell: “The jamboree stands to make tens of thousands of dollars on this event, yet its organizers won’t pay a dime of the untold costs to American taxpayers. Frankly it’s a disgrace.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 375,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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