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For Immediate Release, July 30, 2010

Contacts:  Karen Schambach, Center for Sierra Nevada Conservation, (530) 333-1113
Lisa Belenky, Center for Biological Diversity, (415) 385-5694

Lawsuit Aims to Protect Species From ORV Expansion in Sierra Foothills

GEORGETOWN, Calif.— The Center for Sierra Nevada Conservation and the Center for Biological Diversity today filed suit to protect struggling species, including the rare California red-legged frog, from off-road vehicles and construction in the Sierra Nevada foothills. The groups are challenging 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. The work would include blasting of rock outcroppings, excavation, construction of retaining walls and other “improvements” designed to increase ORV use in the Rock Creek area.

The groups are challenging the decision because the agency failed to adequately review impacts to soil, water and air quality, riparian habitats and imperiled species such as the California red-legged frog, western pond turtle and Eldorado manzanita. The state’s OHV division refused to prepare an environmental impact report for the work and instead chose to rely on an inadequate review that lacked important mitigation measures for any damage.

“The agency ignored impacts the increased ORV use will have on forest resources — tearing up soils, damaging creek banks and beds, and reducing water quality critical for maintaining riparian and aquatic habitat for many species,” said Lisa Belenky, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “California law requires evaluation of impacts on wildlife and plants before a project begins.”

“These so-called improvements are designed to expand ORV use in an area that is already being severely damaged by off-road vehicles,” said Karen Schambach, president of Center for Sierra Nevada Conservation. “The Forest Service ignores requests for more hiking opportunity, yet continues to promote a use causing sedimentation in our creeks, air pollution and noise that keeps quiet recreationists from using this area.”

Read more about the California red-legged frog and Western pond turtle here.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a nonprofit conservation organization with more than 255,000 members and online activists dedicated to protecting endangered species and wild places.

The Center for Sierra Nevada Conservation is a grassroots organization dedicated to the protection of ecosystem values and the long-term sustainability of our natural resources for future generations.

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