Before BLM modified its management of the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area, off-highway vehicle (OHV) riders had unrestricted access to 137 square miles of the dunes, and limited access to 81 square miles, for a total recreation area almost 7 times larger than Manhattan. The new plan will expand the unrestricted OHV area to 199 square miles, and cut the protected habitat from 117 square miles to 54.
The decision comes as land managers are still working to determine how to protect desert ecosystems throughout California as industrial, military and recreational burdens surge. The BLM late least year authorized the nearby Ocotillo Express Wind project on nearly 16 square miles of habitat, and the State and Federal authorities are considering permitting BrightSource Energy's Rio Mesa Solar project, the McCoy Solar project, and a redesign for the Blythe Solar project.
|This photo from the biological report submitted by BrightSource to the CEC shows the palo verde and ironwood (microphyll) woodland habitat found on the Rio Mesa site.|
A small portion of the previously protected area (9,046 acres) will remain closed to OHV traffic in order to protect natural communities available to visitors for wildlife viewing and other non-motorized recreation. The BLM probably will have difficulty protecting this area from errant OHV riders.