Another BLM Closure

Kernhuntr

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BLM bans off-roaders from 17,000 acres in Kern desert

By LINDA SAPPINGTON, Californian correspondent


Tuesday April 02, 2002, 11:31:37 AM



RIDGECREST - The federal Bureau of Land Management issued an emergency closure order late Friday that bans all off-road vehicle use on more than 17,000 acres of the desert near Randsburg to protect the desert tortoise.
The order bans off-road motorcycles, four-wheel-drive trucks and other all-terrain vehicles from roughly 29 miles of desert roads. Off-roaders reacted with disdain to the order, which they say won’t help increase the tortoise substantially but will limit the public’s access to the high desert’s beauty and recreational value.

The affected area is prime desert habitat for endangered desert tortoises and closure was necessary because some members of the off-highway vehicle community are driving on closed roads, said Hector Villalobos, manager of the Ridgecrest office of the BLM. He said some drivers were even crashing though or driving around bright orange netting that blocks access to the route.

“Recent surveys show that over 90 percent of the closed routes in the area of critical concern are being ridden regularly,” stated Villalobos in the closure order.

“It’s very frustrating,” he said, adding that a handful of misusers jeopardize the routes for the majority of riders who stay on designated dirt routes.

The closed routes were clearly marked, Villalobos said. All access routes and closed routes are mapped in 11 different kiosks near entrances to the routes. On the trails, closed routes were indicated with a red marker and in some cases, hay bales and/or orange plastic netting.

The recently closed area includes some beautiful scenery and a colorful canyon of volcanic rock and ash, said Randsburg resident Mickey Goodin.

“What percentage of the population can enjoy it if you close the road?” asked Goodin, adding that the average person isn’t fit enough to hike to many of the remote areas. “Who are they saving it for?”

Bakersfield resident Dick Taylor and his family have camped and explored in the area for years. He said he can’t just take his mother for a 15-mile hike to see some beautiful spot, and he argued that closing the roads isn’t the answer for the few who break the law. Instead, law enforcement needs to step up enforcement and and cite those who violate the law.

“We don’t close a highway because some people speed or drink and drive,” he said. He believes some of the environmental groups want to close access because “the average citizen isn’t intelligent enough to be left to our own devices without somehow messing it up.”

The closed area is part of a 129-mile network of multiple-use routes in the Western Rand Mountain area designated as an area of critical concern to protect desert tortoises.

The tortoise population is declining - even in areas closed to vehicles for more than 15 years - but it’s because of a respiratory disease and predatory ravens, Taylor said.

“It’s just a good excuse to close the road,” said Randsburg resident Tim Powers, who rides dirt bikes in the area once or twice a week. “There should be a balance. We want it preserved and accessible.”

“Unfortunately, one way or the other, everybody loses,” Powers said.

The action was precipitated by a lawsuit filed against the BLM in March 2000 by the Center for Biological Diversity and two other environmental groups. The suit accused the BLM of not properly managing areas in the Californian Desert Conservation Area.

The BLM was able to act without public hearings because of laws that allow for such closures in situations it decides are needed to protect the environment. Interim closures will not affect the remaining 100 miles of designated routes in the Rand Mountains Fremont Valley Management area nor other open off-highway vehicle areas such as Spangler Hills, Jawbone Canyon or Dove Springs.

Routes closed by the emergency order will be marked with red stakes and will remain closed at least until June 2003, pending completion of the West Mojave Plan, according to the BLM.

Documents and area maps are available at the BLM Ridgecrest Field Office, 300 S. Richmond Road.
 

Hogskin

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I'm sure it's temporary.  Just like the income tax.

Regards,
Paul
 


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