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For Immediate Release, April 24, 2009

Lisa Belenky, (415) 385-5694

Clean-up Order Issued for Rubicon Trail

SACRAMENTO, Calif.— The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board today issued a “cleanup and abatement” order for the Rubicon Trail, requiring El Dorado County and the Eldorado National Forest to prepare a plan that addresses the ongoing resource damage from off-road vehicle use on the trail. This order is the first step by the Board to attempt to curb impacts to water quality from sediment, human waste, and automotive fluids on and adjacent to the trail.

“We applaud the regional board for taking a long-overdue first step to address unregulated off-road vehicle use on the Rubicon Trail, which has degraded water quality and threatens both human and environmental health,” said Lisa Belenky, senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Increasing and irresponsible use of the trail has caused excessive amounts of silt, automotive fluids, and bacteria to flow into lakes and streams essential for native trout, mountain yellow-legged frogs, and drinking water.”

The cleanup and abatement order was issued in response to staff investigations of numerous complaints regarding water-quality impacts along the Rubicon Trail in the spring of 2008. After investigating these complaints and conducting a sediment study it was clear that past and ongoing impacts required action to protect the resources from irresponsible off-road vehicle use.

The Rubicon Trail, located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, crosses approximately 32 watercourses and receives a significant amount of off-road vehicle use each year that contributes to erosion and degrades soil quality, especially during the winter or when soils are saturated. The land surrounding the trail drains into a number of creeks, small lakes, and ponds, and portions of the trail travel through wet and boggy areas, further contributing to water-quality degradation. A study done in March 2006 by El Dorado County concluded that there were potentially significant impacts to species and habitat associated with continued off-roading along the Rubicon Trail. These species range from birds to amphibians to plants and include special-status species like the mountain yellow-legged frog, Yosemite toad, marten, fisher, and wolverine.

Center comments to the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board
Environmental impacts of off-road vehicles on the Rubicon Trail

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