Home>Articles>Environmental Group Sues CA Parks & Rec Agency Over Off Road Vehicle Access Plans

Red Rock Canyon State Park (Photo: parks.ca.gov)

Environmental Group Sues CA Parks & Rec Agency Over Off Road Vehicle Access Plans

Opponents say lawsuit could create a dangerous precedent for off-road access in the future

By Evan Symon, April 6, 2023 1:14 pm

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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3 thoughts on “Environmental Group Sues CA Parks & Rec Agency Over Off Road Vehicle Access Plans

  1. Who funds the radical leftist environmentalists at the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) which is based in Tucson, Arizona? CBD’s website has broken links for their Form 990 and audited financial statements. The latest Form 990 available from 2017 indicated that CBD’s total revenue for 2017 exceeded $20.1 million. As of March 2019, CBD had at least 160 employees, including more than 40 attorneys. Kieran Suckling is executive director and co-founder of the center. In 1994, Kieran Suckling, then the director of the organization that would later become CBD, shoplifted hiking boots and bedroom slippers from a Wal-Mart. He pleaded no contest to the charges and was fined $67. An Arizona jury assessed a $600,000 libel judgment against CBD in a case filed by rancher and investment banker Jim Chilton. In July 2002, CBD had tried to get Chilton’s public-land grazing permit rescinded and had posted photos and allegations on its website asserting Chilton was allowing destructive overgrazing and damage to animal habit on his 21,500-acre allotment in a national forest. Chilton’s lawyers provided wider angle photos of the same scenery, revealing healthy trees and greenspaces located in the same vistas. What had allegedly been presented by CBD as barren images caused by overgrazing were shown to be campsite areas used by hunters, and a parking lot used for an annual festival. The jury was persuaded the CBD photos had been misleading.

    1. I do know that in the past a good deal of CBD’s budget comes from the taxpayers, thanks to the Equal Access to Justice Act, which covers the legal fees of litigants in federal lawsuits, win or lose. The article I read this in was in Range Magazine and it itemized the organizations and the dollar amounts paid out of the treasury to all the big enviro organizations. And it wasn’t chicken feed.

      And yes, Kieran Suckling is one of your typical lying bloodsuckers. His group sued a border area federal land leaser claiming his cattle killed fish in streams by stepping on them. Fortunately, the cattle rancher was a wealthy man and was able to shove CBD’s outrageous lie right back down their throats. But thanks to the EAJA, CBD’s legal expenses were all paid. By the taxpayers.

  2. A couple of roads are bad, but destroying the habitat for every plant and animal for thousands of acres of solar farms is fine.

    I’ve had enough of these loud mouth idiotic so-called environmental groups. They don’t care about the environment. They are liars.

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