February 1, 2011
Randy Banis, FOJ, 661-942-2429
Judge Rules OHV Closures “Not Appropriate” and “Not in the Public Interest”
Cantil, California – A federal judge Saturday declined to restrict public access to some 5,000 miles of roads and trails in the West Mojave desert. A coalition of environmental groups had asked United States District Judge Susan Illston to allow only the use of street legal vehicles across the 9.3 million acre planning area of the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) West Mojave Plan (WEMO). Illston ruled that restrictions would “significantly reduce the opportunity for OHV recreation,” and wrote that a request for full closure was “not in the public interest.” An additional request by environmental groups to close three popular recreation areas to all motorized use was ruled by Illston as being “not warranted.” The decision also paved the way for the BLM to redesignate the motorized route network in the West Mojave, and directs them to immediately install route signs and update their maps.
“This decision breaks five years of limbo at the BLM with regard to OHV route signing and mapping in the West Mojave,” said Ed Waldheim, president of the Friends of Jawbone. “Sadly, this challenge resulted in five years of unnecessary environmental degradation that could have been prevented with timely and accurate route signing and maps. OHV users want to stay on the legal trails, but this lawsuit has only served to frustrate route signing efforts, and to keep current and accurate OHV maps out of our hands.”
“Route signs, maps and law enforcement officers are all necessary and co-equal components of any successful travel management and user education program,” said Randy Banis, an outdoor enthusiast and advisor to the BLM. “Judge Illston acknowledged that the ‘majority of harms’ cited by environmental groups are the result of those ‘traveling off of the designated OHV routes.’ Therefore, I welcome the court’s directive to the BLM to make improvements in their OHV education and enforcement efforts in the West Mojave. The result will be a healthier environment for wildlife, and better recreational opportunities and access for the public.”
The motorized route network in the West Mojave desert serves a wide array of important recreational uses, including: backcountry touring, bicycling, camping, collecting and trapping, educational enrichment, equestrian staging, gem and mineral collecting, geo caching, guzzler maintenance, hiking and backpacking, history seeking, hunting, model rockets and planes, OHV and 4WD driving, picnicking, photography, rock climbing, solitude seeking, spiritual renewal, sport shooting, star gazing, and wildlife watching.
Friends of Jawbone provides a forum for users of public lands in and around Jawbone Canyon to promote the preservation, multiple use, and restoration of public lands, local, state and federal. Formed in 1998, Friends of Jawbone supports and develops projects to improve, protect and maintain existing trails and to promote understanding, education and cooperation between all users of public lands.