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Action timeline

2001 – Furnace Creek was closed to off-road vehicles on Bureau of Land Management land as part of a settlement of a Center lawsuit to protect the California Desert Conservation Area. The settlement also effectively closed the narrow “cherry stem” road into national forest lands. Past ORV use had seriously damaged the creek bed and the hydrology of Furnace Creek and facilitated further unauthorized ORV access and damage in Tres Plumas Flats and other areas critical to sage grouse and other imperiled species.

May 14, 2007 – The Bureau of Land Management announced that it would allow the construction of a new road through Furnace Creek, taking the first step toward ensuring destruction of this unique desert canyon by claiming a finding of “no significant impact” to local resources. The proposed road would have included 14 creek crossings in less than two miles, thereby destroying acres of rare riparian habitat that had naturally rebounded and now provide essential habitat to a suite of rare and imperiled species.

January 29, 2008 – In response to protests filed by the Center and local conservation groups, the BLM announced that it was withdrawing its environmental assessment on the proposal to allow the construction of a new road through the area.

2008 –  The McKeon Wilderness Bill was passed, protecting most of the public land above the Furnace Creek area managed by the Forest Service and the BLM as part of a newly designated wilderness area in the White Mountains. However, a section of an old road on BLM lands — closed for nearly a decade as a result of a Center lawsuit — was not included in the new wilderness, and is at risk of reopening.

 

Photo by Chris Kassar