Off-roaders smash science

  • Tracks in the Algodones Dunes

    JEFF ALU, www.animalu.com
 

Note: This article is a sidebar to this issue's feature story, "Sound science goes sour."

Three years ago, a federal court settled a disagreement between the Bureau of Land Management, conservationists and off-road vehicle groups over the fate of a short-lived perennial plant in the pea family (HCN, 12/18/00: Feds fight chaos in a desert playground). That settlement temporarily closed 49,000 acres of the Algodones Dunes in California to protect the Peirson’s milk-vetch from off-road traffic, while leaving 70,000 acres open to ATVs, motorbikes and dune buggies.

But the compromise was short-lived. When Michael Pool, the California state director of the BLM, learned that biologists in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Carlsbad office were planning to issue a “jeopardy” opinion that would have permanently closed the 49,000 acres, he fired off a letter to their bosses in the California-Nevada Operations Office.

In his August 6, 2002, letter, Pool wrote that the BLM did not believe a jeopardy opinion was warranted, and added that, if issued, it would disrupt the agency’s schedule to finish a management plan for the dunes. Although Fish and Wildlife studies had found that off-road traffic was the biggest threat to the milk-vetch’s survival, Pool cited a report — funded by the American Sand Association, an off-road group — which claimed the agency’s counts of the milk-vetch were skewed by poor weather.

Eight months after receiving Pool’s letter, the Fish and Wildlife Service issued a “no jeopardy” opinion, and allowed the BLM to re-open the 49,000 acres to off-road use.

None of the biologists were available for comment, but Jane Hendron, a Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman, says the BLM will initiate intensive monitoring to make sure plant numbers don’t drop below 50 percent of the estimated 2000 population.

But Daniel Patterson of the Center for Biological Diversity says there’s no funding for that kind of monitoring. “It’s criminal behavior,” says Patterson. “Citizens exercise their rights (by filing a lawsuit), the courts agree with the citizens, and the Bush administration ignores the Endangered Species Act again.”

High Country News Classifieds
  • WRITING SKILLS TUTOR FOR HIRE!
    Fort Collins, CO college students welcome. Meet on your college campus!
  • CANYONLANDS FIELD INSTITUTE
    Colorado Plateau Natural & Human History Field Seminars. Lodge, river, hiking options. Small groups, guest experts.
  • NATURE EDUCATION DIRECTOR
    Our mission is to inspire a life-long connection to nature and community through creative exploration of the outdoors. We are seeking an educational leader who...
  • DEVELOPMENT AND MARKETING DIRECTOR
    The Development and Marketing Director is a senior position responsible for the execution of all development and marketing strategies to raise funds and increase public...
  • DEVELOPMENT COORDINATOR
    Coordinates all Wyoming Wildlife Federation philanthropic activities. Tasks include identification, recruitment, and retention of donors, organizing fundraising events, and assisting with grant writing.
  • REALTOR NEEDS A REMOTE ASSISTANT
    This is a business assistant position, The working hours are flexible and you can chose to work from anywhere of your choice, the pay is...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Central Oregon LandWatch is seeking an Executive Director to advance our mission and oversee the development of the organization. Job Description: The Executive Director oversees...
  • WESTERN NATIVE SEED
    Specializing in native seeds and seed mixes for western states.
  • MEDIA DIRECTOR
    Love working with the media? Shine a spotlight on passionate, bold activists fighting for wild lands, endangered species, wild rivers and protecting the climate.
  • STAFF ATTORNEY - NEVADA
    The Center for Biological Diversity is seeking an attorney to expand our litigation portfolio in Nevada. Come join our hard-hitting team as we fight for...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Montana Wildlife Federation seeks an energetic leader to advance our mission, sustain our operations, and grow our grassroots power. For a full position description,...
  • HISTORIC COMMERCIAL OPPORTUNITY IN DOWNTOWN NOGALES
    Nogales. 3 active lower spaces and upper floor with lots of potential. 520-245-9000 [email protected]
  • CHUCK BURR'S CULTUREQUAKE.COM BLOG
    Change will happen when we see a new way of living. Thinking to save the world.
  • COMING TO TUCSON?
    Popular vacation house, furnished, 2 bed/1 bath, yard, dog-friendly. Lee at [email protected] or 520-791-9246.
  • DIRECTOR, TEXAS WATER PROGRAMS
    The National Wildlife Federation seeks a Director to lead our water-related policy and program work in Texas, with a primary focus on NWF's signature Texas...
  • SPLIT CREEK RANCH
    Spectacular country home on 48 acres with Wallowa River running through it! 541-398-1148 www.RubyPeakRealty.com
  • OJO CALIENTE COMMERCIAL VENTURE
    Outstanding location near the world famous Ojo Caliente Mineral Spring Resort. Classic adobe Mercantile complete w/living quarters, separate 6 unit B&B, metal building and spacious...
  • NEW MEXICO GILA NATIONAL FOREST HORSE RANCH
    43 acres in the Gila National Forest. Horse facility, custom home. Year-round outdoor living. REDUCED to $999,000, 575-536-3109.
  • EVERLAND MOUNTAIN RETREAT
    Everland Mountain Retreat includes 318 mountaintop acres with a 3,200 square foot lodge and two smaller homes. Endless vistas of the Appalachian mountains, open skies,...
  • COPPER CANYON MEXICO CAMPING & BACKPACKING
    Camping, hiking, backpacking, R2R2R, Tarahumara Easter, Mushroom Festival, www.coppercanyontrails.org.