For Immediate Release, October 30, 2007
Contact: Andrew Orahoske, Center for Biological Diversity, (406) 529-7591
Out-of-Control Motorized Event on the California Coast
Threatens Endangered Species
Lawsuit Filed to Stop Future Events and Compel Environmental Review
SACRAMENTO, Calif.— The Center for Biological Diversity today sued the California Department of Parks and Recreation for issuing a multi-year approval of an off-road vehicle race through the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area. The suit charges that State Parks failed to conduct any meaningful analysis of the race’s effects on California’s delicate coastal ecosystem.
Oceano Dunes is a biologically diverse coastal ecosystem that suffers abuse from off-road vehicles improperly managed by the state’s Parks Department. Today’s lawsuit seeks a court order that invalidates the Parks Department multi-year approval, requires the agency to conduct proper environmental review prior to allowing future motorized events at Oceano Dunes, and prevents improperly permitted races from occurring without environmental review.
“Five years of motorized races will devastate the fragile ecosystem at Oceano Dunes,” said Andrew Orahoske, conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Parks Department issued a race permit on the same day of the event without providing the public with an opportunity to review the proposal or comment on the impacts to the environment. The agency is not above the law.”
The suit is the second this year against the state for its improper management of off-road vehicles on state parklands. Earlier this year, the Center sued the same agency for improperly allowing a motorized race through the Desert Cahuilla parcel at Anza-Borrego State Park in the California desert. The Parks Department agreed not to issue a permit and the event was cancelled.
“The mission of the Parks Department is to protect California’s rich natural heritage while providing recreational opportunities that are consistent with that protection. The snowy plover is now facing extinction, and the Parks Department cannot allow dirt bike races through important habitat without even considering the impacts on the environment,” said Orahoske.
The state issued a multi-year permit for the event extending through 2011 without preparing an Environmental Impact Report as required under the California Environmental Quality Act. Earlier this month, the 2007 “Endurance Beach Race” went forward at Oceano Dunes, and thousands of off-road vehicles descended on the sensitive area.
The coastal ecosystem at Oceano Dunes is rich in biodiversity and unique habitats. Numerous threatened and endangered species make their homes on dunes, beaches, wetlands and creeks, including the western snowy plover, California least tern, steelhead trout, tidewater goby, red-legged frog, Nipomo Mesa lupine, marsh sandwort, Gambel’s watercress, La Graciosa thistle, surf thistle, Pismo clarkia, and beach spectacle pod. These species and others suffer harassment and trampling from off-road vehicle activity while their habitats are destroyed. Nearby protected areas at the Pismo Dunes Preserve and Guadelupe-Nipomo Dunes National Wildlife Refuge are also adversely affected by off-roaders in the area.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a nonprofit conservation organization with more than 35,000 members dedicated to the protection of imperiled species and habitat.