YUMA -- In a surprisingly honest move on an issue I've worked on for many years, the US Fish & Wildlife Service has rejected efforts by the off-road vehicle lobby to remove protections for endangered species on the Algodones Sand Dunes (aka Imperial Dunes or Glamis), but that may not stop BLM from continuing to pursue a destructive plan for the dunes web-of-life.
“Keeping protections for the Peirson’s milk-vetch is scientifically defensible and a good move,” said Ileene Anderson, a respected botanist in southern California, “but more is needed to ensure the plant doesn’t just teeter on the brink of extinction. We need to stop off-road vehicles from tearing up habitat and running over the plants.”
The Peirson’s milk-vetch is found only on a small portion of Southern California’s Algodones Dunes, where it ekes out life amongst the abrasive shifting sands. It has purple-pink, pea-like flowers and produces large, inflated pods, which blow off the plant, shedding seeds. The Algodones Dunes, also known as the Imperial Dunes, have become a hub for off-road vehicle enthusiasts, who tear over the shifting sands at high speeds, killing the plants and animals that live in this fragile ecosystem. The Bureau of Land Management which is responsible for protecting the dunes, allows hundreds of thousands of off-road vehicles to tear up the habitat, creating a destructive and high-crime 'Mad Max'-like scenario between October and May and threatening the survival of the milk-vetch and other wildlife.
“The Bureau of Land Management needs to put in place additional protections for the milk-vetch, including significant new restrictions on off-road vehicle mayhem, to prevent this special plant from going extinct,” added Anderson.
Located in the western Sonoran Desert, the scenic and remote Algodones Dunes are the largest dune ecosystem in the United States, spilling into Mexico on their southern end. They harbor at least 160 different animal and plant species, many of which are found nowhere else in the world. The dunes are heavily damaged, with as many as 250,000 off-road vehicles driving across the dunes destroying vegetation, wildlife habitat, and polluting the air on most weekends from October to May. The heavy off-road 'wreck'reation has also resulted in criminal problems that stress law enforcement and burden local emergency services. The free-play areas swarming with ORVs on the southern end of the dunes along the Mexican border are a conduit for smuggling. Smugglers blend in with off-roaders and make their illegal, sometimes deadly, beeline to Interstate 8, much to the frustration of the Border Patrol.
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) has been working with BLM and other staff for nearly a decade to try to bring balanced multiple-use management to the dunes.
- some info from CBD
OTHER COVERAGE: Yuma Sun