Center for Biological Diversity
Protecting endangered species and wild
places of western North America
News Release For immediate release Tuesday, May 29, 2001
BLM CLOSES SURPRISE CANYON TO OFF-ROAD VEHICLES TO PROTECT RARE SPECIES, WILDERNESS VALUES & WATER QUALITY.
Contact Daniel Patterson,
Desert Ecologist, CBD 520.623.5252 x 306
PANAMINT RANGE, INYO COUNTY CA The unique, lush riparian habitats of the Surprise Canyon Area of Critical Environmental Concern were protected today when the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) published a protective closure notice in the federal register. The protective measures to ban motor vehicle use in the canyon go in to effect immediately and will remain at least until BLM completes its National Environmental Policy Act and California Desert Conservation Area Plan amendment processes. The vehicle closures may remain in place for good, as permanent protection of Surprise Canyon will be a top option considered by BLM.
Protecting Surprise Canyon guards the essence of biological diversity in the California Desert, said Daniel Patterson, CBDs Desert Ecologist. Surprise Canyon is a crown jewel desert riparian area and it will now be allowed to thrive, and be sustainably enjoyed by people, without the constant attack and pollution of off-roading.
Surprise Canyon, adjacent to Death Valley National Park, is an important habitat and water source for wildlife in this ultra-arid part of California. It is known to harbor the rare endemic Panamint alligator lizard and is potential habitat for endangered riparian obligate birds such as the Southwestern willow flycatcher and Least Bells vireo.
The Bureau of Land Management has not protected the wonderful hourglass riparian areas of the Panamint Mountains. said Elden Hughes, Chair of the Sierra Club California/Nevada Desert Committee. It is finally happening, but its a shame it has taken a lawsuit to do it.
For years, BLM had
allowed unregulated extreme off-road vehicle use of Surprise Canyon. Off-road
vehicles regularly winched-up unique waterfalls, cut native vegetation
and spilled oil & gas in to the water. The damage is so bad that BLM
states in todays notice: The canyon riparian zone currently
does not meet the BLMs minimum standards for a properly functioning
riparian system due to soil erosion and streambed alterations caused by
off-highway vehicle use.
This conservation action arises from the big desert lawsuit settlement between the BLM and the Center for Biological Diversity, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, and Sierra Club. The Clinton and Bush Interior Departments as well as off-road vehicle & multiple use group interveners earlier signed the stipulations to protect the Virginia-sized California Desert Conservation Area (CDCA).
pleased that BLM is starting to catch up and implement the settlement,
after being motivated by the court nearly holding them in contempt for
delays. said plaintiffs attorney Jay Tutchton of the Earthjustice
Legal Defense Fund.
The CDCA lawsuit was orignially filed March 16, 2000 in the Northern District of California and assigned to Judge William Alsup. The court will hear a compliance update on all remaining CDCA settlement actions on June 14. Full CDCA details and a link to specific info and photos at Surprise Canyon.