The Latest Bounce


Off-roaders in the Mojave Desert must yield to the desert tortoise, says the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. In early April, the agency, acting under a court agreement with the Center for Biological Diversity, closed 18,000 acres in the western Rand Mountains to dirt bikers, in an effort to help the desert tortoise, which continues to decline (HCN, 11/5/01: Cattle make way for tortoises in the Mojave).

Still, dirt bikers shouldn't despair: The agency has proposed reopening another area of Southern California to off-road vehicles. The BLM recently recommended allowing four-wheelers to use 49,000 acres of the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area; the action would reverse a previous settlement that banned the activity (HCN, 12/18/00: Feds fight chaos in a desert playground). Environmentalists pledge to sue the agency if it proceeds. They say the off-road use harms wildlife and the threatened Peirson's milkvetch.

Boy Scouts won't be earning any merit badges near the Fryingpan River above Aspen, Colo. (HCN, 1/21/02: Boy Scouts want new digs). The U.S. Forest Service has decided not to accept a proposal to locate a Boy Scouts of America camp on about 40 acres of White River National Forest. That's good news for local residents, who feared the forest would be damaged by a potential 200 scouts.

The Forest Service squelched another controversy when it recently halted the Eagle Creek timber sale in northwestern Oregon. For years, tree sitters have protested that the sale damages downstream watersheds and increases fire risks (HCN, 9/24/01: The timber sale that won't die). When a group of independent scientists recommended the agency leave trees standing in order to avoid fire danger, the Forest Service refunded the timber company's down payment and cancelled the sale.

Wilderness protection chalked up a few points in early April, when a federal magistrate denied a developer's request to carve nine miles of new road into Montana's Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness Area (HCN, 10/11/99: Another wilderness developer pops up). Jim Sievers, a Paradise Valley resident, had sued the U.S. Forest Service claiming that the agency must guarantee him access to his 120-acre parcel, deep within the wilderness. The magistrate ruled that while the agency must grant access to inholdings, motorized access is not required. Sievers may continue to helicopter into the property.

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