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For Immediate Release, May 2, 2008  

Contact: Chris Kassar, (520) 609-7685  

Center Applauds Closure of Clear Creek Management Area for
Public Health and Endangered Species Protection

HOLLISTER, Calif.– The Bureau of Land Management closed to the public over 30,000 acres of the Clear Creak Management Area in response to a multi-year Environmental Protection Agency report that concluded that the carcinogenic asbestos stirred up by motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles, and sport utility vehicles pose a serious health risk to visitors.  

“It’s about time that the agency steps in to protect public health,” said Chris Kassar, a biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The EPA study confirms that asbestos levels and toxic dust kicked up by off-road vehicles is a much greater health hazard than previously thought, and the Bureau of Land Management is going to have to be very careful about how they manage this area in the future.”  

The Clear Creek Management Area, near Coalinga in San Benito and Fresno Counties, contains one of the largest naturally occurring asbestos deposits on Earth, and the land is dotted with abandoned asbestos and mercury mines. Visitors entering Clear Creek's 30,000-acre "red zone" see signs warning of asbestos exposure and are warned to avoid breathing dust and drinking water from the area.

The EPA has been reporting high levels of asbestos for years, but the recent assessment is the most conclusive reporting alarming statistics like the fact that five visits a year to the Clear Creek Management Area over three decades could lead to lung cancer and other crippling diseases.

Protecting public health isn’t the only concern in the area. The Center for Biological Diversity and the California Native Plant Society filed suit in federal court in 2004 in an effort to get the Bureau of Land Management to manage off-road vehicle abuse until it acted to protect the threatened San Benito evening primrose, a wildflower found only in the Clear Creek area. About two-thirds of the area's colonies of the primrose have been harmed by off -road activity, and one colony of 1,476 plants was wiped out by off-road drivers between 2000 and 2003. As a result of this lawsuit, off-road use was officially restricted to 242 miles of trails to protect the primrose and other fragile species.

For a link to the EPA study, click here.

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