| FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 19, 2007
Contact: David Hogan, Center for Biological Diversity, (619) 574-6800 or (760) 809-9244
Off-road Vehicles Could Tear Up Desert Parkland,
Suit Filed to Stop Destructive Event This Weekend
SAN DIEGO , Calif.– Two conservation groups have filed for an injunction to stop the California Department of Parks and Recreation from allowing hundreds of off-road vehicles to roar through sensitive public parkland on January 20 th and 21 st. The lawsuit, which charges that the Department is violating the California Environmental Quality Act, seeks an immediate injunction to stop the off-road event and a court order requiring environmental review for management of the land, which would bar off-road vehicles till the study is completed. The suit was filed in California Superior Court in Sacramento by the Center for Biological Diversity and Desert Protective Council.
The California Off-Road Vehicle Association’s (CORVA) “Truckhaven Extreme Challenge Poker Run & Satellite Safari” would occur in a desert area just west of the Salton Sea near Salton City, north of Highway S-22, and west of Highway 86. The event would involve and encourage extensive cross-country travel by hundreds of vehicles (400 in 2006 according to the Association’s Web site). A significant portion of the event would take place on sublime and fragile desert land known as the “Desert Cahuilla property,” acquired in September 2006 by the California Department of Parks and Recreation for the protection of endangered Peninsular bighorn sheep and other rare wildlife, plants, Native American cultural sites, and fossils.
Addition of the Cahuilla property came after years of work by conservation and Native American groups and lawmakers to secure the land as an expansion of the adjacent Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. It now appears that the Parks Department pulled a bait-and-switch: it claimed the land would be added to the state park and, based on this, chose not to prepare an environmental impact report. Now it has decided the land will be jointly managed by the state park and the Off-Highway Vehicle Division —which has been angling since 1995 to expand the Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area for off-road vehicle users—but never went back to do the required environmental impact report on the damage that could be done by this change.
“The off-road event permit is starting to look a lot like a lawless land grab by a desperate motorhead bureaucracy,” said David Hogan, Conservation Manager for the Center for Biological Diversity. “When will these people start acting responsibly and stop trespassing on others’ land?”
“We are shocked that State Parks would permit an event that allows access by hundreds of jeeps across areas of Native American cultural sites, rare plant and animal species and endangered bighorn sheep critical habitat before they have a management plan in place for this beautiful area,” added Terry Weiner, Imperial County Projects and Conservation Coordinator for the Desert Protective Council.
The event would also take place on land owned by the California State Lands Commission and Anza-Borrego Foundation. For its part, the State Lands Commission sent a letter on January 17, 2007 notifying CORVA that it “has no authorization to use state-owned school lands” for the event and requesting that the group “advise your members and any other event participants that permission to cross State lands…has not been granted, and make every effort to assure that such trespassing will not occur.” The off-road association’s Web site for the event make no mention of the letter nor give any indication that the event has been canceled as of press time.
“The Anza-Borrego Foundation, both as a cooperating association of California State Parks and the owner of property within the Desert Cahuilla area, remains deeply concerned about the decision by Parks to allow continued off-highway vehicle use on this property,” said Diana Lindsay, President of the Anza-Borrego Foundation. “Such continued use, especially without an interim management plan in place, subjects the property to irreparable damage.”
Staff from the Center for Biological Diversity and Desert Protective Council are available to meet reporters at the site of the event this weekend.
Please visit the Center’s web page to see the conservation groups’ lawsuit, the letter from the State Lands Commission denying the California Off-Road Vehicle Association’s requested permit, photographs of ORV use and damage to the area, and more:
Information on the off-road event, including reports and pictures of the 2006 event is available at: www.corva.org
The Center for Biological Diversity is a nonprofit conservation organization with more than 32,000 members dedicated to the protection of imperiled species and habitat.
The Desert Protective Council is a nonprofit membership organization whose mission is to safeguard for present and future generations those desert areas of unique scenic, scientific, historical, spiritual and recreational value and to educate children and adults to a better understanding of the desert.