Above: a wild desert tortoise walking in BLM land in North Joshua Tree. Photo by Stephanie Smith, April 29, 2015.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is proposing to radically increase the amount of land in Joshua Tree (and the rest of the Mojave Desert) available to Off-Road Vehicle (ORV) use.
We do not need any more ORV routes in the desert.
ORV use in the desert harms everyone and everything in the wild desert habitat. “The desert ecosystem is fragile,” says the National Park Service. “Off-road driving and riding creates ruts, upsets delicate drainage patterns, compacts the soil, and leaves visual scars for years. Plants are crushed and uprooted. Wildlife shelters are destroyed, and food and water supplies are altered or obliterated.” The sound disrupts the peace. The motion sends dust into the air, increasing air pollution.
Much of this BLM land has legitimate conservation value. In our area of northern Joshua Tree, BLM land is home to threatened species like the desert tortoise, and provides habitat and foraging opportunity to a wide variety of desert animals, insects and birds. The wildlife needs this land.
In addition: many of the new proposed routes for ORV traffic are in the ‘checkerboard’ area of north Joshua Tree, where small BLM parcels are interspersed with residential lots. Many of the proposed routes are discontinuous, meaning that ORVers will take a route for a few hundred yards, then have to stop, because the next route is accessible only via County road — and ORV use on County roads is illegal. The proposed routes are also near existing residences — private property — which will inevitably encourage (if not cause) accidental ORV use on private property, which of course will cause more conflict between riders and homeowners. The sheriff and the BLM cannot adequately police ORV activity on County roads and open spaces up here now — you add additional routes, between homes, and we’re gonna have a helluva problem on our hands.
The BLM is now taking comments from the public on its proposals, and has laid out very specific criteria about what kinds of comments count as “substantive” for them. Don’t waste your time writing a general comment about ORVs. It won’t do any good. Write a substantive comment. For guidance on how to do this, go here: ORV Watch
Local biologist and Morongo Basin Conservation Association board member Pat Flanagan has researched this issue and written the best comment letter we have seen thus far for the Copper Mountain Mesa and Desert Heights areas of the Morongo Basin. Here it is: WEMO DEIS Comments_MB and Communities (2mb pdf)
If you agree with it, sign on to it. The email address and physical mailing address it should be sent to are in the PDF.
AND/OR: You can sign an excellent letter of comment on this issue, prepared by our friends at the Center for Biological Diversity, here: Stop BLM’s Plan to Double Off-road Traffic in West Mojave