Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, December 16, 2014

Contact: Ileene Anderson, (323) 654-5943

BLM Report: Illegal Off-road Vehicles Overrunning Parts of West Mojave Desert

Heavy Damage to Wildlife and Cultural Resources on Hundreds of Thousands of Acres

LOS ANGELES— A new Bureau of Land Management report finds that hundreds of thousands of acres of the west Mojave Desert were illegally overrun with off-road vehicles over the Thanksgiving weekend, including fragile desert areas. According to the law-enforcement report, BLM rangers documented illegal and destructive incursions into wilderness and “limited use” areas as well as “heavy illegal OHV use” in many areas. Rangers admit they don’t have the resources to protect both public safety and the natural resources of the public lands from destructive and illegal ORV use. The report estimates 33,000 ORVers visited the Barstow area alone. 

“This ugly and illegal destruction of public lands in the California Desert Conservation Area is a travesty,” said Ileene Anderson, a senior scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “This report confirms that despite the best of intentions, the BLM does not, and cannot, control ORVs in the west Mojave Desert.”

Expansion of Twenty-nine Palms Marine Air Ground Combat Center into a former ORV open area in Johnson Valley has increased ORV use into other nontraditional driving areas, including sensitive biological and cultural sites, according to the report. Not only are protected public lands being damaged, but adjacent and intervening private land parcels are also being heavily damaged by illegal riding, the report revealed.

Both the draft Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan, which is currently out for public review, and the forthcoming West Mojave Route Designation Plan provide opportunities for BLM to rein in ORVs and effectively put protections in place for wildlife, fragile desert landscapes and irreplaceable cultural sites.  The West Mojave Plan will need to significantly reduce the number of routes so that BLM rangers can actually patrol them rigorously and enforce compliance with the pending revised plan. 

The draft plan — both a conservation plan for resources and a development plan for industrial-scale renewable energy — is also an opportunity to close sensitive wildlife habitats to ORV use and could provide a funding source for coordinated federal, state and local law enforcement to enforce the conservation promised in the draft plan.

“Unfortunately the draft plan completely fails to address needed changes in ORV management and other opportunities to truly enhance conservation on public lands in the California desert,” said Anderson. “While there are numerous threats to the public lands resources in the California deserts, ORV use is one that can be and must be controlled to protect our precious wildlife, rare plants, and air and water quality. Public lands are for all the public, not just one type of motorized recreation that destroys them.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 800,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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