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ACTION TIMELINE

November 9, 2000 – A coalition of environmental groups led by the Center reached a settlement with federal authorities limiting off-road vehicle use on the Algodones Dunes. The settlement resolved the first issue in a Center-led lawsuit covering 10.5 million acres of desert lands and 24 endangered species on the California Desert Conservation Area.

May 29, 2001 – The U.S. Bureau of Land Management banned motor-vehicle use in the ecologically sensitive Surprise Canyon as part of a settlement of a Center lawsuit.

June 22, 2001 – The Bureau set aside nearly 480,000 acres of wildlife habitat in the Sonoran and Mojave deserts as off-limits to off-road vehicle use. The protections were part of the settlement of the Center’s larger California Desert Conservation Area lawsuit.  

February 11, 2002 – The Center, along with the Center for Sierra Nevada Conservation and California Wilderness Coalition, filed a suit against the Eldorado National Forest for illegally failing to manage off-road vehicle use.

January 23, 2003 – The Bureau of Land Management was denied more than $1 million in state funding due to improper management of off-road vehicle use on the Algodones Dunes. The Center applauded the move as a step toward protecting public lands from the special interests of the off-road vehicle lobby.

June 24, 2003 – The Center, along with other conservation groups representing nearly 800,000 members, filed suit against the Bush administration’s plan to open up 1,000 miles of the Mojave Desert to off-road vehicles. At least 455 miles of additional routes were planned for desert tortoise critical habitat.

June 25, 2003 – In a crucial legal victory for the Center and other conservation groups, a federal judge threw out a lawsuit brought by the off-road industry that sought to strike down protections for endangered species — including the Peirson’s milk vetch and desert tortoise — on the Algodones Dunes.

July 7, 2003 – The Center and 11 other conservation groups filed suit over a federal plan to open more than 49,000 acres of endangered species habitat on the Algodones Dunes to intensive off-road vehicle use.

August 5, 2003 – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed that 52,780 acres of the Algodones Dunes be designated as critical habitat for the Pierson’s milk vetch. The primary threat to the milk vetch is off-road vehicle use.

April 23, 2004 – The Center, as part of a coalition of conservation groups, filed a petition to list the Sand Mountain blue butterfly as an endangered species. The biggest threat to the species comes from off-road vehicle use that kills individual butterflies and destroys  their habitat.

July 19, 2004 – In a move to protect wildlife specifically threatened by off-road vehicles, the Center, along with Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility and the Sierra Club, filed a petition with the Fish and Wildlife Service to list 16 Algodones Dunes species as threatened or endangered.

August 3, 2004 – Federal officials proposed only 21,000 acres of critical habitat for the Pierson’s milk vetch — cutting nearly 60 percent of the area originally proposed — in favor of expanding off-roading areas on the Algodones Dunes.

August 4, 2004 – Thanks to a Center lawsuit, a federal judge struck down permits issued by the Fish and Wildlife Service that authorized extensive cattle grazing and off-road vehicle use within 4.1 million acres of critical desert tortoise habitat.

November 9, 2004 – The Center and the California Native Plant Society filed a lawsuit seeking protection for the San Benito evening primrose and its habitat in the Clear Creek Management Area. The greatest threat facing the primrose is habitat destruction caused by off-road vehicles.

January 4, 2005 – In a big win for the Center, the desert tortoise, and other endangered California species, a federal court ordered the Bureau of Land Management to stop off-road vehicle damage on more than half a million acres of desert washes and critical habitats in three California counties.

March 14, 2006 – A federal ruling sided with the Center in a lawsuit to uphold existing protections of the Algodones Dunes. The court denied proposed expansions.

April 4, 2006 – The Center and Ms. Sylvia Papadakos-Morafka petitioned the Interior Department to list the Amargosa River distinct population segment of Mojave fringe-toed lizard as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act. The greatest threat facing the lizard is habitat destruction and modification caused by extensive off-road vehicle use.

August 14, 2006 – The Center, as part of a coalition of groups, challenged the Bush administration in federal court for failing to protect private property, conservation lands, and endangered wildlife from off-road vehicles across 7.1 million acres of the California Desert Conservation Area.
 
November 8, 2006 – The Center and allies, represented by Earthjustice, filed papers to intervene in a federal lawsuit in which off-road vehicle enthusiasts sought to allow extreme off-road vehicle use in Surprise Canyon, a rare desert stream in Death Valley National Park. 

March 16, 2007 – In response to a petition filed by the Center and our allies, the Bureau of Land Management announced an emergency closure of 3,985 acres of public lands in and adjacent to the Sand Mountain Recreation Area to off-road vehicles in order to protect the rare Sand Mountain blue butterfly.

July 25, 2007 – Thanks to intervention by the Center and allies in 2006, a federal court denied the attempt by off-roading enthusiasts to open Surprise Canyon to off-road vehicle use. 

September 18, 2007 – Another off-road-interest attempt to gain off-road vehicle access to Surprise Canyon was been struck down by a federal judge.

January 10, 2008 – In response to our April 2006 petition, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that the Amargosa River population of the Mojave fringe-toed lizard warranted consideration for protection under the Endangered Species Act. Protection would include limiting off-road vehicle use.

March 7, 2008 – The Center gave a presentation on travel management and travel analysis at the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference in Eugene, Oregon.

March 13, 2008 – The Center provided information, witnesses, and written testimony for a Congressional oversight hearing on the impacts of off-road vehicles on public lands.

April 21, 2008 – The Center filed a scientific petition with the Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the Las Vegas buckwheat under the federal Endangered Species Act due to threats from development and intensive off-road vehicle use.

June 5, 2008 – The Center provided information, witnesses, and written testimony for Senate oversight hearing on the impacts of off-road vehicles on public lands.

September 29, 2008 – The U.S. Supreme Court announced it would hear a case to decide whether the public would have a voice in the management of national forests, including issues related to off-road vehicle use. The suit began as a Center-sponsored challenge to federal regulations issued in 2003 that shut the public out of U.S. Forest Service proceedings.

December 2, 2008 – The Center for Biological Diversity appealed a Bureau of Land Management decision opening two off-road vehicle routes in desert tortoise habitat in eastern Kern County. The area had already suffered from rampant off-road vehicle abuse, resulting in catastrophic harm to the imperiled tortoise and the fragile desert ecosystem.

December 22, 2008 – Another application to open Surprise Canyon to extreme off-road vehicle use was denied. This marked the third attempt in two years by a small group of off-roaders to gain motorized access to the creek.

January 27, 2009 – The Center filed suit against the Bureau of Land Management for adopting three illegal plans for management of public lands immediately north of the Grand Canyon, including opening protected and fragile ecosystems to off-road vehicle use.

March 11, 2009 – The Center and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility sued the Department of the Interior for failing to respond to a petition seeking protection for the Amargosa toad under the Endangered Species Act. The Amargosa toad is only found in Nevada and is threatened by off-road vehicles in the form of collision-related fatalities and habitat destruction.

March 25, 2009 – The Center filed an appeal of the Forest Service’s decision regarding the off-road vehicle trails in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. The decision had added more than 233 miles of previously unauthorized trails to the system without analysis of the environmental impacts.

April 21, 2009 – The Center announced that it would sue the California Department of Parks and Recreation over its ongoing authorization of off-road vehicle use at the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area. Off-road vehicles are responsible for both habitat degradation and collision-caused mortality of wintering snowy plovers — a federally threatened species.

June 15, 2009 – A coalition of conservation groups, lead by the Center, appealed the Tusayan Ranger District’s off-road vehicle plan because it put wildlife habitat, archeological sites, and the nearby Grand Canyon National Park at risk from continued off-road vehicle destruction.

August 14, 2009 – In response to a Center-led email campaign, the Carson National Forest decided to allow public review of a new off-road vehicle management plan. The public had previously been denied access to documents for review and comment.

September 9, 2009 – The Center, along with the Center for Sierra Nevada Conservation and the Forest Issues Group, filed a federal suit against Eldorado National Forest for failing to fully evaluate environmental impacts, including those directly pertaining to endangered species, when creating its new off-road vehicle plan.

September 11, 2009 – The Forest Service released a deeply flawed travel management plan for the Gila National Forest. The plan sanctioned previously unauthorized off-road vehicle uses causing severe damage to river corridors, as well as to threatened and endangered species.

September 29, 2009 – A federal judge rejected a Bureau of Land Management plan that favored expanded off-road vehicle use over protecting Mojave Desert endangered species and their critical habitat. The decision was the result of a suit filed by a coalition of several conservation groups, including the Center.

October 26, 2009 In response to an appeal from the Center and the Center for Sierra Nevada Conservation, the Eldorado National Forest withdrew its approval of a five-year permit for “Enduro” long-distance dirt-bike races.

January 4, 2010 – In response to a center appeal, an administrative law judge for the Interior Board of Land Appeals rejected a Bureau of Land Management decision to open two off-road vehicle routes in desert tortoise habitat in eastern Kern County.

January 14, 2010 – The Center and other conservation groups filed a formal appeal of a federal plan that failed to protect wild lands and species from off-road vehicle damage in Minnesota’s Superior National Forest.

June 1, 2010 – For the second time in two years, the Center petitioned the Santa Fe National Forest to suspend motorized vehicle use on the “Los Utes” road on the Jemez Ranger District near the Dome Inventoried Roadless Area.

July 30, 2010 – The Center for Sierra Nevada Conservation and the Center for Biological Diversity filed suit to protect struggling species, including the rare California red-legged frog, from a California Off-Highway Vehicle Division decision to approve funding for nearly nine miles of new ORV trails and construction of three new bridges in the Rock Creek Recreation Trails Area of the Eldorado National Forest.

October 20, 2010 – The Center filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the Forest Service’s decision to allow off-road vehicles in sensitive areas in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest along the California-Nevada border. In March, the agency had designated 220 miles of new motorized routes in the forest’s Bridgeport Ranger District.

January 2011 – The Gila National Forest proposed to keep ORVs out of the San Francisco River as part of a new draft travel-management plan.

January 19, 2011 – The Center, Snowlands Network and Winter Wildlands Alliance filed a lawsuit challenging the California Department of Parks and Recreation’s 10-year plan to fund clearing and grooming for snowmobile trails on 11 national forests each winter.

January 29, 2011 – In response to a lawsuit by the Center and allies, a federal judge issued an order forcing the Bureau of Land Management to redo its plans for off-road vehicle use on millions of acres of public land in the California desert and requiring the agency to implement protections for wildlife, water and air quality.

February 2011 – Despite repeated protest from  the Center, Grand Canyon Wildlands Council and Sierra Club, Arizona’s Kaibab National Forest finalized an off-road vehicle plan for the Tusayan Ranger District allowing hunters on ORVs to drive on more than 900,000 acres of wildlife habitat, putting that entire area at risk from the spread of invasive weeds.

March 20, 2011 – In response to an appeal by the Center, Amigos Bravos and WildEarth Guardians, the Southwestern Regional Office of the U.S. Forest Service reversed a decision to add environmentally destructive user-created roads to the Carson National Forest’s official road system.

April 15, 2011 – The Forest Service released a new plan to manage motorized vehicles for parts of the Cibola National Forest in New Mexico that would cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars and allow off-road vehicles to run roughshod through more than 500,000 acres in the Mount Taylor Ranger District, which is home to the Mexican spotted owl, American pronghorn and Zuni bluehead sucker.

May 19, 2011 – A decision was announced allowing off-road vehicles to operate on historic roads in southern Arizona’s Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, jeopardizing sensitive wildlife habitat and placing additional stress on the critically endangered Sonoran pronghorn.

May 26, 2011 – A federal court rejected the Forest Service’s plan to increase off-road vehicle use in the Eldorado National Forest, finding that the agency’s travel-management plan violated legal protections for fragile Sierra Nevada meadow habitat and the threatened California red-legged frog.

September 4, 2012 – A six-day off-road vehicle rally started in Arizona’s Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest that was tacitly authorized by U.S. Forest Service officials without analysis or approval under the National Environmental Policy Act and Endangered Species Act.

November 1, 2012 – Off-roaders publicly announced plans to drive their off-road vehicles through the Pecos Wilderness on Saturday, November 3 in flagrant and destructive violation of the Wilderness Act and other laws. 

Photo by Chris Kassar