Center for Biological Diversity
BECAUSE LIFE IS GOOD

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BLM STALLS SAND MOUNTAIN PLAN AS BUSY WEEKEND APPROACHES
Bush administration working only with off-roaders
on excessive route plan that is not yet in place

NEWS RELEASE: for immediate release Friday, August 29, 2003

Contact: Daniel R. Patterson, Desert Ecologist, CBD 520.623.5252 x 306 or 520.906.2159
Karen Schambach, PEER 530.333.2545 or 530.305.0503

CARSON CITY, NV -- Despite a legal mandate to work with all interests, the Bush administration is collaborating only with off-road groups on an excessive route plan for Sand Mountain, and as a busy off-roading weekend approaches the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is bowing to industry pressure by missing a deadline to start a weak voluntary habitat avoidance program.

BLM decided July 21 that it would ignore several applicable laws and regulations, and a compromise recommendation by BLM staff and supported by the Fallon-Paiute Shoshone Tribe, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and conservationists to close sensitive habitat to off-road vehicles at Sand Mountain, Nevada. BLM Carson City Field Office Manager John O. Singlaub’s decision to only encourage voluntary avoidance of 1000 acres of remaining vegetated habitat within and adjacent to the 4700 acre Sand Mountain Recreation Area has yet to take effect.

“BLM must follow the law to conserve public lands resources with balanced management, not just meekly ask off-roaders to please not trash the area, and this Labor Day weekend they are not even asking.” said Daniel R. Patterson, Desert Ecologist with the Center for Biological Diversity who represents the national conservation perspective on the BLM’s Sand Mountain subgroup. He adds, “Even weak voluntary measures are unacceptable to a radical off-road lobby that wants excess, not access -- and BLM bows down to them by cutting others out of the planning process and stalling on-the-ground action. Call them the Bureau of Land for Motorcycles.”

Earlier this spring BLM staff recommended closure of the best remaining habitat at Sand Mtn. (much has already been lost) to protect the Sand Mountain blue butterfly, its host plant Kearny buckwheat and several other rare endemic species. BLM convened a subgroup of conservationists, off-roaders and a representative of the tribe to make a recommendation. Conservationists focused on protection of the 1000 acre habitat area, and at no time proposed closure of more popular off-road riding areas, despite severe environmental damage there. Off-road industry groups were unwilling to consider any closure, demanding the entire Sand Mountain area be open to intensive off-roading. The subgroup did not agree on any recommendations, but BLM settled on toothless voluntary measures that were to be implemented by this weekend, but then stalled action.

“The law requires land managers to close areas to off-road vehicles where clear damage to natural resources it occurring, as it is at Sand Mountain. It does not allow managers to avoid needed closures with voluntary approaches.” said Karen Schambach of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. “When asked, BLM could not identify anywhere where voluntary off-road vehicle restrictions have worked to conserve or restore habitat.”

“BLM has shamefully allowed Sand Mountain to be taken over by destructive off-roading, and now they make a political decision to avoid upsetting the industry that will allow continued harm to endemic species and cultural sites.” said Charles S. Watson longtime Nevada conservation champion and director of the Carson City-based Nevada Outdoor Recreation Association.

Contact John Singlaub at 775.885.6151.

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