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Old January 20th, 2007, 09:55 PM   #1
USMC 0369
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Default This is what we are battling against out here.

I dunno how many of you have heard of the Tierra Del Sol event held at "Truckhaven" hills in southern Cali... The event that was cancelled was not TDS; however I'm sure TDS will be cancelled (planned for April I think) if this isn't dealt with.

Heres what was in the SD paper today
[Copied from San Diego Union Tribune]

Off-road rally near Salton Sea canceled

Environmentalists sue on eve of two-day event

By Mike Lee

January 20, 2007

The California Off-Road Vehicle Association yesterday canceled a major rally and fundraiser in the Imperial County desert after two environmental groups sued to stop the event scheduled for today and tomorrow.

Due to the late change in plans, hundreds of off-road enthusiasts still could show up at the site near the Salton Sea. Environmentalists also pledge to arrive with cameras to document any illegal activities.

The potentially explosive situation is the latest flash point in a long-running battle between the two groups over proper use of California's remote lands. It also highlights the lack of a management plan for a patchwork of the state's recently acquired parcels that have attracted off-roaders for years.
Off-roaders call the place “Truckhaven.” Conservationists call it the “Desert Cahuilla property.” It's next to the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, which emphasizes resource protection, and Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area, a hot-spot for off-road enthusiasts.

“We would hope that nobody decides to turn this into an angry confrontation . . . because it won't help their cause as we work toward good solutions for this property,” said Roy Stearns, spokesman for the state Department of Parks and Recreation in Sacramento.

The Center for Biological Diversity and the Desert Protective Council filed their legal challenge yesterday in state superior court in Sacramento. It says the parks department has failed to conduct the proper environmental reviews before allowing off-road vehicle use at the site.

Conservationists asked a judge to stop the weekend rally, which appeared to be moving ahead despite some official opposition. Earlier in the week, the State Lands Commission, which owns parcels in the area adjacent to State Parks lands, warned the off-road group to stay off its property.

The off-road association responded to the threat of an injunction by calling off its activities. They were billed as a way to raise money for the “daunting” legal bills the group was racking up in its public-access campaign.

“This is a very big victory for us, and we hope that we can now get State Parks to put in reasonable measures to protect these resources,” said Lisa Belenky, attorney for the Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity.

The organization will press forward with its larger legal challenge even though the off-road association backed down for the weekend.

Numerous messages left with off-road leaders were not returned yesterday.

“Although this may feel like a loss, remember, we are in this for the long run,” said a cancellation notice posted on the organization's Web site late yesterday afternoon. “We need to work in conjunction with State Parks so Truckhaven will remain open and available for (off-road vehicle) use in the future.”

Last year, the 11th annual Truckhaven Challenge drew about 400 vehicles for a weekend of off-roading on the “steep and hairy” terrain. One of the most popular activities is called the Satellite Safari, in which participants use global positioning systems to find their own routes to predetermined spots.

Environmentalists were concerned that another such event would lead to widespread damage of the area's natural and historical resources. For instance, a large section of the Cahuilla lands is federally designated as critical habitat for Peninsular bighorn sheep.

Before the association rescinded its permit request, State Parks officials said they were prepared to give approval. Stearns said it was easier to protect sensitive sites and make sure that rules were followed during organized events. Otherwise, he said, the state risked a “free-for-all.”

Late yesterday, that appeared to be a possibility.

“People have the right to go out and use (parkland) as individuals, but they no longer will have the right to hold an event,” Stearns said.

He said that it would take several months to draft a management proposal for the controversial parcels and that his agency's goal was to include resource protection and off-road vehicle use in the final plan.
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