Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Off-road abuse wrecking National Monument in AZ

Volunteers work to repair off-road vehicle damage, only to see reckless off-roaders wreck it. DRP photo

PHOENIX -- The Sonoran Desert National Monument is considering banning off-road vehicle traffic altogether because of the resource damage and user conflicts, according to internal memos released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Agency officials cannot cope with the "exponential" increase in recreational demands on the nearly half-million acre federal preserve south of Phoenix - particularly abusive off-roading by excessively large groups.

Minutes from an internal "Emergency Resources Protection Meeting" of the Sonoran Desert National Monument staff held on March 5, 2007 and other agency records, obtained by PEER from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) under the Freedom of Information Act, indicate that -
  • Growing problems prompted the official Resource Advisory Council to recommend a total ban on off-road vehicles entering the Monument;
  • Attempts to restore damaged areas are being thwarted by repeated improper off-road intrusion. One BLM staff member noted that "volunteers are not enough to restore all the damaged areas. Volunteers are also getting tired of seeing their work destroyed…"
  • In 2006, there were 73 illegal off-road "incursions" into the three congressionally designated wilderness areas inside the Monument (the North and South Maricopa Mountains and Table Top). All told, Arizona BLM recorded 280 wilderness violations last year by off-roaders.

The Sonoran Desert National Monument is an increasingly popular recreational destination in between the burgeoning populations of Phoenix and Tucson. One of the fastest growing components of Monument visitation is off-road traffic, allowing ever bigger groups to damage remote and sensitive areas.

"Reckless off-roaders are trashing Arizona's natural heritage," stated Southwest PEER Director Daniel Patterson, adding that the Sonoran Desert is the most biologically rich of the world's deserts. "America's national monuments must be protected from vandalism and environmental destruction, even if that means keeping off-road vehicles out of monuments." Patterson is an Ecologist who formerly worked with BLM.

The BLM documents cite a wide range of growing headaches arising out of off-road groups, from improper disposal of human waste to the intensive law enforcement presence needed. Unfortunately, the deteriorating situation at Sonoran Desert National Monument is becoming prevalent on public lands across the Southwest, where off-road vehicles are now, by far, the number one law enforcement problem, according to agency statistics compiled by PEER.

"Due to the abuse, it is not surprising that BLM managers are considering an off-road vehicle ban for the Monument," concluded Patterson. "Without effective enforcement it appears doubtful that abusive off-roading on our public lands can be stemmed."

- from PEER


Anonymous said...

Enforcement seems to be the only answer. I strongly support it, however, I don't expect it to happen.

There are also wildcat roads and literally tons and tons of trash on lands near the border. The government is not enforcing laws which would reduce that - and sadly, the major environmental groups have turned a blind eye.

Daniel R. Patterson said...

The biggest environmental threat on the border is DHS and Bush/Cheney's new 'Berlin Wall'.

Anonymous said...

Berlin Wall? Hyperbole won't win you any converts, and I do adamently disagree with you.

The environment has been trashed, the wildlife disturbed by those crossing the border illegally. You're not being honest if you know the area and still dispute that.

I have sympathy for people coming here, but the solution lies in improving their opportunities in their own countries.

I've never seen a vehicle barrier that wildlife can't cross, and it distresses me to know that people who claim to be pro-environment turn a blind eye to the situation.

Your response was that of a political lackey, not that of one who truly loves and cares about the Sonoran Desert.

It tears me apart to see what's happening, and like it or not, I feel our primary responsibility is to the land and wildlife.

We've only got one Earth. Those of us who CAN help preserve our small corner of it need to speak out and protest the continual and massive abuse it is now suffering from the unrestricted trampling by those who blatantly show they have little respect for it.

You blame the Border Patrol. I primarily blame the Mexican government, both political parties, and unscrupulous businesses for encouraging people to come here and create a cheap labor pool. Those actually crossing bear responsibility, too. There is no reason to leave tons of trash, rotting food and excrement, or to foul the water. These are not people who respect the environment.

May the desert and the wildlife forgive you and here's hoping you think this through carefully and change your position.

Daniel R. Patterson said...

I strongly support wildlife-friendly vehicle barriers, and always have.

They work.

Walls won't work, and are bad for wildlife.

NAFTA and failed US immigration policy are huge problem causes we can address here in America, but congress and the administration have failed.

Immigrant traffic certainly impacts the land. So does DHS.

As long as people are willing to risk their lives and die crossing the border for US jobs, we will not stop them with more militarization.

Anonymous said...

I agree that NAFTA has only benefited a few and has injured the average person, and as a consequence, the desert suffers.

An open border only encourages more and more abuse of the land. That abuse does not give me a warm, fuzzy, feeling for those coming here through the back door.

BTW, proper fencing does work, and would funnel people to the vehicle barriers, which imo, should be put in the least environmentally sensitive areas. I have been around both domestic and wild animals long enough to know they ALWAYS figure out where the hole in the fence is - sometimes much to my chagrin.

This would also lessen the impact of DHS vehicles.
Win-win, imo.

No, I don't think our immigration policy has actually failed, just the enforcement of it, and both major political parties are guilty as charged.

What HAS failed are the economic and domestic policies of countries south of us. People living there need to demand change. They can make it happen and that is what ultimately will save our desert. In the mean time, it must be protected, and that is a fight I will continue.

I wish people would show more concern for the envronment and less for political correctness.