Environmentalists, offroaders may agree that WEMO


Well-Known Member
Apr 1, 2001
Environmentalists, offroaders may agree that WEMO Plan is flawed

By Dwayne D. Eukel/ctyrpt@ridgecrestca.com

The Center For Biological Diversity and many offroad vehicle groups may have at least one thing in common; neither seem to believe the BLM's West Mojave Offroad Vehicle Route Designation Plan is comprehensive or accurate enough.

Daniel Patterson, a CBD desert ecologist, told The Daily Independent recently, "I think we can all agree that the BLM plan did not address the original concerns, which were to recover habitat for the Desert Tortoise."

"I think that opening 1,000 miles of new roads in the Western Mojave Desert for offroad vehicle enthusiasts doesn't help the Desert Tortoise at all. We also believe that they did shoddy work on the data and the maps," Patterson added.

Eldon Hughes, chairman of the Sierra Club Desert Committee said, "It's a sorry day when the stated goal of the BLM's plan is to better protect endangered species and the plan leaves the endangered species worse off."

The center claims that at least seven endangered species would be affected by the WEMO Plan; including the Desert Tortoise, the Inyo California Towhee, the Mojave Ground Squirrel, Lane Mountain Milkvetch, Cushenbury Buckwheat, Cushenbury Milkvetch and the Cushenbury Oxytheca.

"The one-sided offroad plan violates the National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act, Clean Air Act, National Historic Preservation Act, and the California Endangered Species Act," the CBD release stated.

"The plan is yet another indication that the BLM has given up on its obligation to manage offroad vehicles in an environmentally responsible manner. Instead it represents the Bush administration's philosophy of pandering to offroaders, regardless of how damaging they are to natural and cultural resources," said Karen Schambach, director of the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

Ronald L. Schiller of Ridgecrest's High Desert Multiple Use Coalition, Inc., stated in a letter of protest to Washington D.C. that "the environmental assessment on which this proposed plan is based -- is faulty, grossly inadequate, and appallingly unfair to the public."

Schiller said the route designation process was "artificially driven by overly optimistic deadlines -- and foolishly agreed to by BLM officials in response to uncontested frivolous lawsuits.

"Because of this, the public is being forced to suffer the consequences of the BLM's shortsightedness, irresponsibility, and incompetence," Schiller stated.

CBD's Patterson agreed. "We think their environmental impact research was inadequate and in many cases, inaccurate," he said.

According to a CBD news release June 24, a legal challenge against the WEMO Plan, is being mounted by conservation groups, which allegedly includes a membership of nearly 800,000 persons.

"This is the latest example of the Bush administration's extreme anti-environmental policies and contempt for wildlife conservation," Patterson said.

The charge has been vehemently denied by the Bush administration, and instead claim that "environmentalists" are using the issue as an emotional vehicle to "line their pockets," according to several Bush supporters.

In a series of Pulitzer-Prize winning articles written by Tom Knudson of the Sacramento Bee in 1999, the charge that environmental groups are profiting heavily may have some merit.

Public contributions and revenue generated by the groups have gone as high as $704 million annually, and much of that funding came, ironically, from government grants.

Research conducted by the Sacramento Bee's Knudson and colleague Scott Flodin, showed that the average annual salaries of 20 environmental group executives ranged anywhere from nearly $60,000 to $262,000.

In further examples cited by Knudson, a 1991 lawsuit filed against the U.S. government involving a rare salamander brought lawyers for the Sierra Club and other plaintiffs more than $3.5 million.

In 1993, federal judges sharply criticized a Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund attorney for "flagrant overbilling" in a clean Air Act case against the government.

In 1997, the National Parks Conservation Association fired its president and awarded him more than $760,000 -- without telling its members.

Several other examples are given in Knudson's articles, including the fact that in 2000 the most destructive fire season in half a century scarred the western United States.

According to some experts, the lack of thining in wooded areas, lush with undergrowth, brush and dried kindling, are in part to blame for the dangerous fire hazards that exist in the western United States.

Some fire officials have blamed that danger on environmentalists who have filed lawsuit after lawsuit to thwart environmental encroachment.