The California Department of Parks and Recreation and the Park and Recreation Commission were sued by the Center for Biological Resources, an environmental group, earlier this week over a revision for a state park that would allow greater access for off road vehicles.
The lawsuit centers around Red Rock Canyon State Park in Kern County. Recently, a plan was proposed to allow off-highway vehicles on two park roads and a campground, in part to allow visitors to traverse the rocky terrain more easily and to avoid injuries in an area where assistance has proven difficult.
However, according to the Center for Biological Diversity V. California Department of Parks and Recreation suit filed in the Sacramento County Superior Court on Tuesday, many plant and animal species are vulnerable to greater off-road traffic. The group claims that the state did not give an adequate study of what the harm from more off-road vehicles on the roads and the campground would be and violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) by not adequately describing environmental conditions in the park.
“It’s appalling that the state is willing to sacrifice such a biologically diverse gem when there are plenty of off-road vehicle areas surrounding the park,” said Center senior scientist Ileene Anderson on Wednesday. “Red Rock Canyon State Park is the crown jewel of conserved areas in the western Mojave Desert. How much desert land needs to be ruined for this type of recreation? It makes no sense to invite more off-road vehicles into this sensitive area without a commitment to monitor and limit these environmental harms. We should prioritize conservation of California’s irreplaceable landscapes, not plan for their destruction.”
“Does everything in the western part of the Mojave Desert have to be for off road vehicles? I don’t think so. That’s basically the bottom line of it.”
They also said that the new rules would potentially harm other visitors from enjoying the park.
“They have areas where they can go and ride anywhere they want,” added Anderson. “We should have the park set aside where people can do quiet recreation. Family camping.”
However, proponents note that the greater access is needed, and that the suit, if decided in the environmental group’s favor, could create a dangerous precedent for off-road allowances in areas with dangerous terrain.
Red Rock Canyon State Park suit
“It’s strange, because the California Parks department readily acknowledges what off-road vehicles can do to delicate areas if remained unchecked, and has huge restrictions on them that would not go anywhere with the new rules in place,” Alex Marino, a rescue worker who has worked in both rural California and Nevada, told the Globe on Thursday. “This is just two roads and a campground. They’re trying to make it sound like the entire park will be a motorcycle track.”
“While there might be a recreation aspect to it, there’s still so many other restrictions and rules that it would be impossible for huge loud events or lots of off-roading to take place. What the suit would do is hurt safety efforts to more isolated locations. It can take a long time to rescue people out of parks like Red Rock Canyon. Someone with an off-road vehicle is sometimes the best bet it getting someone out quickly.”
“Plus, again, look at all the restrictions that will stay in place. These people will not be bounding all over, only be allowed in a few more designated areas. Worst case scenario, it briefly gets noisy, but just send a ranger their way if it gets too much, and it should be fine. Remember, everyone using those vehicles needs to be license and the fines are very heavy there. There’s plenty of other places, even nearby there, that are a lot more laxer with that sort of thing for off-road vehicles. Why risk that in a state park?”
“This can really set a dangerous precedent for people just wanting to bring off-road vehicles out there to enjoy and to help out in case of emergencies. This may seem like a really micro issue affecting one state park, but it could be so much more.”
Officials from the California Department of Parks and Recreation said that they would not comment on the suit, due to it being pending litigation.
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