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400 miles of mojave trails closed.

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  • 400 miles of mojave trails closed.

    A federal agency has again closed about 400 miles of back roads and trails previously opened for off-highway vehicles in the vast West Mojave planning area.

    Complying with a recent federal court order, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management has closed the routes that meander through 685,000 acres of public lands in San Bernardino and Kern counties, bureau spokesman Doran Sanchez said Friday.

    The roads will remain closed until a final decision is made on the overall West Mojave Plan, a wildlife habitat conservation proposal that encompasses 9 million acres in the Mojave Desert.

    That decision is expected next spring.

    The bureau's move to reinstate the road closures has drawn barbed comments from representatives of environmental and off-highway vehicle groups.

    "Off-highway groups want an excess (of routes), not just access,' said Daniel Patterson, desert ecologist with the Tucson, Ariz.-based Center for Biological Diversity. "The Bush Administration gave a handout to off-roaders, and now the court has slapped them down.'

    But Hesperia resident Jennifer Foster, vice president of Public Lands for Public Use, fears that months of effort to allow all groups reasonable access to remote areas of the desert has been counter-productive.

    "If the bureau is reverting back to a system of emergency road closures, we're back to square one,' she said. "It seems there has been some sneaky maneuvering going on with environmental folks.'

    Sanchez said the bureau's decision is part of a 2001 settlement agreement between the agency and three environmental organizations, including the Arizona group, that filed a lawsuit claiming the bureau failed to uphold provisions of the Endangered Species Act.

    "The BLM issued a decision last June 30 to meet a deadline set in the settlement, stating that interim (closures of) routes in the West Mojave were terminated,' Sanchez said.

    On Sept. 18, a federal judge ruled that back roads closed as part of the bureau's route network, established in late 2001, would remain closed until the West Mojave Plan is approved, Sanchez said.

    "When the BLM approved the environmental assessment establishing off-highway routes in the West Mojave June 30, we felt we had met the requirements of the settlement agreement,' he said. "With that, we removed the interim restrictions that closed the 400 miles of roads.'

    The bureau's off-highway route network includes various subregions in the West Mojave extending from the Newberry and Rodman mountains wilderness area east of Barstow to the Red Mountain area southeast of Ridgecrest. The area also includes Superior Valley northwest of Barstow and the Helendale area west of Barstow.

    According to Patterson, the bureau decided to open the 400 miles of back roads "as a favor to off-highway vehicle interests.

    "(But) the BLM was not supposed to impose interim restrictions until the final West Mojave Plan is approved,' he added. "The restrictions now in effect return to those in place in the original route network.'

    Miffed with the latest turn of events involving back roads in the West Mojave, Foster said the BLM has not kept its promises to keep many of the routes open for those who love to drive along the remote trails.

    But Linda Hansen, manager for the bureau's California Desert District, pointed out that 4,700 miles of roads remain open to public use in the West Mojave, including 1,450 miles in the region lying between Red Mountain, Helendale and Ord Mountain
    Kirk
    1997 Jeep Wrangler

  • #2
    ... lovely news ... just lovely. :mad:
    :gun:'99 TJ Sport:gun:

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    • #3
      There is obviously some different opinions within the gov. I don't see how low speed traffic is harmful, if done on existing trails...
      Insert witty comment here.

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