Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, January 7, 2015

Contact: Ileene Anderson, (323) 654-5943 or

Wildlife, Public Health Put at Risk as BLM Waives ORV Fees at Algodones Dunes

IMPERIAL COUNTY, Calif.— The Bureau of Land Management’s decision to waive fees for off-road vehicle recreation at the Algodones Dunes (also known as Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area) and Lark Canyon over the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend will put endangered plants and animals at risk of destruction and increase Imperial Valley’s air pollution. The decision will also subsidize ORV use at a time when BLM’s law enforcement is already underfunded and unable to effectively police the destruction of habitat belonging to imperiled species like the flat-tailed horned lizard and Peirson’s milk vetch.

“It’s astonishing to see the BLM throw open the doors to ORVs in these sensitive landscapes,” said Ileene Anderson, a senior scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “BLM law enforcement and land management at Algodones Dunes has operated at a huge financial deficit for years, so it makes no sense for BLM to intentionally forego revenues. And encouraging even greater air-pollution problems for the people of Imperial Valley flies in the face of common sense and basic human rights.”

Chronically short of adequate law-enforcement funding, protected BLM areas in the dunes and elsewhere have suffered for decades from increasing and irresponsible illegal off-roading activities. On holiday weekends BLM attempts to allocate the scant law enforcement to the most heavily used areas, leaving other sensitive areas unpatrolled and vulnerable to destruction. The Imperial Valley is already regularly out of  compliance with dust emissions that are known to be hazardous to human health, and additional off-roading only exacerbates this air-quality danger.

“BLM should be protecting public health and these sensitive plants and animals that call these areas home,” Anderson said. “By waiving these fees BLM is doing the opposite — encouraging ORV activities that destroy air quality and fragile habitats.”

Algodones Dunes (also known as Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area) stretches 40 miles north from the United States-Mexico border in eastern Imperial County to form the country’s largest dune system, the Algodones Dunes. The dunes are biologically unique on a global scale, because of the region’s extremely dry conditions, radical temperature swings and ever-changing wind-sculpted landscape resulting in a unique habitat where numerous rare species — including reptiles, plants and more than a dozen insects — have evolved and live nowhere else in the world. It is also a mecca for off-road vehicles, annually drawing millions of dune buggies, motorcycles, jeeps, ATVs and monster trucks that tear up the desert landscape and kill plants, animals and even people. The Center has worked for decades to protect this irreplaceable landscape and the plants and animals that are adapted to this rare habitat.

Lark Canyon Off-Highway Vehicle Area and Campground is located among the live oaks in southeastern San Diego County and is a part of the McCain Valley Resource Conservation Area. It is home to a dense population of eagles and California condors forage in this area, along with bighorn sheep, mountain lions, bobcats and numerous other sensitive species.

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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