For Immediate Release, August 20, 2007
||Ileene Anderson, Biologist, Center for Biological Diversity, (323) 654-5943
Terry Weiner, Imperial County Projects and Conservation Coordinator, Desert Protective Council, (619) 342-5524
Taking the Wreck Out of Recreation:
State Park’s Off-road Vehicle Division Agrees to
Resource Protection and Management in Cahuilla
BORREGO SPRINGS, Calif .— A settlement agreement has been reached between the Center for Biological Diversity, the Desert Protective Council and the State of California Department of Parks and Recreation and Department of General Services over management of the almost 15,000-acre Desert Cahuilla area.
Located north of County Road S22 and west of State Route 86, east of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and north of Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area in Imperial County, the 14,727 acres of checkerboard public and private lands contain ancient cultural resources, rare plants, and animals. Most of the area is designated as critical habitat for the Peninsular bighorn sheep. In the past, these lands have been subject to extensive, unauthorized off-road vehicle use, resulting in significant impacts to the wildlife and resources. In 2006, 4,000 acres of private land were acquired by State Parks and Recreation Department. Conservation organizations had filed a lawsuit against the state claiming that State Parks had failed to adequately comply with the California Environmental Quality Act before acquiring the property.
After negotiations between the parties, State Parks has now agreed to initiate review under the Act for a comprehensive management-plan process by December 15, 2007, to process any applications for “special events” such as off-road vehicle gatherings, as the law requires, at least 45 days in advance of the events, and to implement interim measures to protect rare and sensitive cultural and biological resources from degradation.
“This agreement jump-starts the process that will identify the management needed to protect the rare and sensitive plants and animals that call the Desert Cahuilla area home,” said Ileene Anderson, biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity.
“Interim protection of the irreplaceable cultural and biological resources along with a timeline for a balanced management plan is a step in the right direction,” added Terry Weiner of the Desert Protective Council. “We are looking forward to engaging in the public land-management planning process for the Desert Cahuilla Prehistoric Area. We are dedicated to helping craft a management plan that will enable recovery of some of the damaged areas and protection of these fragile and beautiful lands for future generations.”
“A recent flyover of this area opened my eyes to the ongoing impacts off-road vehicles are having on this special place,” said Chris Kassar, a Center for Biological Diversity biologist specializing in the ecological impacts of off-road vehicle use. “This settlement agreement moves our goals forward, and we will continue to press for even greater protections in the future.”
The Center for Biological Diversity is a nonprofit conservation organization with more than 35,000 members dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.