Center for Biological Diversity
Protecting endangered species and wild
Center for Biological Diversity
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility
Bush Administration Faces Legal Challenge
to 3.2M Acre California Desert Off-Road Plan
NEWS RELEASE: for immediate release Tuesday, June 24, 2003
W. MOJAVE DESERT, CA -- The Bush administration faces a strong legal challenge from citizens to its plan to open up to 1000 miles of new roads for off-road vehicle enthusiasts across 3.2 million acres desert tortoise and other wildlife habitat in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside, Kern and Inyo counties. Conservation groups representing nearly 800,000 members filed a legal challenge to the West Mojave Off-Road Vehicle Designation Project on Friday detailing how the one-sided off-road plan violates the National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act, Clean Air Act, National Historic Preservation Act, and the California Endangered Species Act. At least seven endangered species would be affected, including desert tortoise, Inyo California towhee, Mojave ground squirrel, Lane Mountain milkvetch, Cushenbury buckwheat, Cushenbury milkvetch and Cushenbury oxytheca.
?This is the latest example of the Bush administration?s
extreme anti-environmental policies and contempt for wildlife conservation.?
said Daniel R. Patterson, CBD Desert Ecologist. ?Mojave desert wildlife
and habitat are in decline and off-road vehicles are a major reason, but
Secretary Norton wants to increase off-roading. It?s absurd and illegal,
and it will not stand.?
?It's a sorry day when the stated goal of the BLM?s plan is to better protect endangered species and the plan leaves the endangered species worse off.? said Elden Hughes, longtime desert conservation champion and Chair of the Sierra Club Desert Committee
?The west Mojave ORV plan is yet another indication that BLM has given up on its obligation to manage ORVs in an environmentally responsible manner. Instead, it represents this administration's philosophy of pandering to off-roaders, regardless of how damaging they are to natural and cultural resources.? said Karen Schambach, California Director of PEER.
Overall this ?route designation? process is actually
?route proliferation? done under the guise of a formal designation and
mapping of ?existing? routes, many of which were created by off-roaders
driving cross-country across the desert.
1. The proposed Plan Amendment if adopted as written
will violate NEPA because the opening of this additional route mileage
will unquestionably result in significant effects to the surrounding environment.
Therefore, BLM will be in violation of NEPA if they do not do a full Environmental
Impact Statement for the project.
3. The proposed Plan Amendment if adopted as written will violate the National Historic Preservation Act because a full inventory of the areas cultural resources has yet to be done and therefore no determination of the plan?s effects on such resources can yet be determined.
4. The project will violate the Endangered Species Act if the proposed plan is adopted without formal consultation with the US Fish and Wildlife Service. The agency must make a jeopardy determination on the desert tortoise and other listed species in the area. If the proposed plan does not receive formal consultation under Section 7 of the ESA, the proposed plan will violate Section 9 of the ESA, because the route proliferation will result in unauthorized take of listed species without an incidental take statement.
Interior Secretary Norton was unresponsive to these points during the comment period. Contact BLM Director Kathleen Clarke for comment, 202.208.3801
Contact Daniel Patterson for a full copy of the legal challenge.
*** CBD / PEER / SC ***