Thousands of Imperial Sand Dune Acres to be Kept Open After Appeals Court Sides With BLM
Decades-Long Case Settled
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) plan to expand OHV access in the California Imperial Sand Dunes, ruling it complied with the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The three-judge panel rejected every argument from environmentalists against the BLM’s plan for the popular OHV area just above the Mexican border.
Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain wrote in an opinion that the court considered the effects of the BLM’s plan on the Peirson’s milkvetch, a purple-flowered plant protected under the ESA and that it compiled with the Clean Air Act and several other environmental laws.
The heart of this case resides around OHV use in the North Algodones Dunes where all 26,098 acres of dunes would be off limits to OHV use. Milkvetch critical habitat located on 9,261 acres in the dunes would be restricted as well. In consultation with the BLM and the Fish and Wildlife Service a biological opinion was issued in which the plan to keep these areas open was not likely to jeopardize the existence of the threatened milkvetch plant or Mojave desert turtle.
The Center for Biological Diversity did not approve of the new BLM plan saying the Fish and Wildlife’s biological opinion failed to include an incidental statement for the milkvetch detailing how plants might be killed under the plan. The BLM argued that such statements are not required for threatened plants, and the court agreed, twice.
The court sided with the BLM, Fish and Wildlife as well as the Obama administration’s ESA directive saying they properly interpreted the word “Take” in the ESA. “Take” only refers to animals and fish, not plants. O'Scannlain wrote that the words in the definition of "take" describe actions that "most naturally describe actions that cannot be directed against plants."
In addition to rejecting the environmentalist’s argument that the plan violated the ESA, the court also rejected their argument that the BLM plan would violate the Clean Air Act, national Environmental Policy Act, and the Administrative Procedure Act.
While this is more legal jargon than we want to read, this is a big win for the off-road community as a whole and efforts to keep land open. If you want more technical and legal information on the actual court ruling, you can read the opinion eenews.net.