"ORV impact on the desert is huge, according to wildlife experts"

  • Posted on: 6 October 2007
  • By: admin

Published in the Hi-Desert Start - October 5, 2007

Guest soapbox: Trashing a gift

By Russell M. Drake / Yucca Valley

Amid growing public clamor about the effect of off-road vehicles on humans (noise, dirt, vandalism and so forth), relatively little has been said about the ORV effect on the desert and the animals who inhabit it.

Within easy reach of the Mojave Desert are 595,781 ORVs registered by the Department of Motor Vehicles in seven Southern California counties, more than half of the 1,101,980 registered in the entire state.

ORV impact on the desert is huge, according to wildlife experts.

“Few vehicles could be found that are more effective in damaging soil and plant life than knobby-tired, powerful dirt bikes and four-wheel drives,” says Cal Berkely professor emeritus of zoology Robert C. Stebbins in a paper published in “The California Desert,” a 1995 book on man’s impact on the desert. “When off-road vehicles are used repeatedly in a limited area they can be utterly devastating,” says Professor Stebbins.

“It takes not more than a week for coyotes to quit denning and leave. Birds will leave even quicker,” under the impact of off-road vehicles, says Paul De Prey, Chief of Resources, Joshua Tree National Park.

“ORV activity is a destructive recreation,” says Michael Vamstad, Joshua Tree National Park wildlife ecologist. “Off-road vehicles are contributing to a lot of displacement of wildlife, particularly owls and hawks. The loss of land and resulting fragmentation of animal populations is the greatest threat to any species right now. The whole ecosystem gets thrown out of whack.”

Probably nowhere else can ORV destruction be seen so clearly as on one square mile of desert owned by the Town of Yucca Valley about five miles north of the town center. Called Section 11 by the town, and the Landau Gift by others, the land was given to Yucca Valley by Elizabeth and Edward Landau of New York City in 1996. About a third of the parcel was destroyed by a fire of unexplained origins Aug. 5, 1995.

The fire was followed by an invasion of dirt bikes, quads, pickups, four-by-fours, dune buggies, sand rails and Jeeps. Sheriff’s deputies and code enforcement officers say off-roaders are attracted to land cleared by fire because it’s easier to drive than native desert scrub.

Nesting red-tailed hawks and great-horned owls with five-foot wingspreads disappeared from Section 11, vanquished by the noise and stink of off-road vehicles. Threatened desert tortoise and other burrowing animals are uniquely vulnerable to death by ORV “dirt sports,” which crush their burrows, trapping them inside, or kill them outright.

Even light or moderate ORV traffic can cause lasting damage to wildlife and soils. The damage can be seen in the “edge effect” and the cryptobiotic crust, a one-quarter-inch thick “carpet” of nutrient-rich top soil that is critical to desert plant and animal life. The delicate crust is in a constant battle for survival with natural forces and when further compromised by dirt bikes can be converted into shifting sand dunes.

The “edge effect” of vehicle traffic propagating from roads like a wave into surrounding terrain has a ruinous impact on plants and animals alike. In this area, says Paul De Prey, native grasses lose the competition for water and nutrition to non-native species, such as red brome grass, which doesn’t decompose as quickly as native grasses. Instead, red brome dries out, its stalks becoming “flash fuel” that increase the frequency and size of wildfires. The effect is multiplied by roads and systems of roads created by ORV traffic on lands adjacent to highways.

“The decrease in the population of animals in a highway edge area has a trickle effect out into the desert. Put in another road, say a dirt bike trail that through repeated use becomes a road, and animal population between the roads is wiped out,” says De Prey.

Renewal of cryptobiotic crusts can take from 50 to 250 years. A destroyed ecosystem may require over 3,000 years for complete recovery, say co-authors Jeffrey E. Lovich and David Bainbridge in a 1999 article on the effect of human activity in the Southern California deserts.

SB County Board of Supervisors Keep Ordinance Strong !

  • Posted on: 22 August 2007
  • By: admin

The question at yesterday's Board of Supervisor's meeting regarding the ORV Ordinance was:

1) Accept an oral report from the Deputy Director, Code Enforcement of the Land Use Services Department (LUSD) regarding enforcement of San Bernardino County Ordinance 3973, Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) Ordinance. 2) Determine that the OHV Ordinance, as written, is effective, working as intended, and needs no changes. (Presenters: Julie Rynerson Rock and Randy Rogers)

The issue has now been officially recorded as "Approved" by the Clerk of the Board of Supervisors.

Thank you to all who have supported the ordinance by writing letters, signing petitions, calling the Supervisors and attending the BOS meeting yesterday.

San Bernardino County officials keep law restricting off-roading

  • Posted on: 22 August 2007
  • By: admin

San Bernardino County officials keep law restricting off-roading

By DUANE W. GANG - 8/22/07
The Press-Enterprise

Link

The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors agreed Tuesday to keep a year-old law restricting the use of motorcycles and other off-road vehicles intact.

The supervisors will reconsider a provision requiring a $155 permit for 10 or more people to gather and operate off-highway vehicles.

No date has been set to take up the law again.

Off-highway vehicle use is popular in San Bernardino County, especially with the vast stretches of open space available in the largest county in the lower 48 states.

Off-road-vehicle use has often drawn complaints from residents about noise, dust and trespassing. Supervisors last year approved the law and agreed to reconsider the issue in a year.

"This issue is really resolved best by good manners, good manners on both sides," Supervisor Dennis Hansberger said.

The rules, approved in April 2006, require riders on private property to have written permission from the owners, to apply for a temporary-event permit when 10 or more riders gather, and to use vehicles that meet state noise standards.

Riders also are subject to laws that make it illegal to disturb the peace and quiet of a residential area.

Off-highway-vehicle enthusiasts said the law should be repealed or revised. They argued that only a small number of riders are problems, while the law infringes on a person's private-property rights by requiring the permit for 10 or more riders. The permit was their biggest concern.

Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt, who, along with Hansberger, represents most of the areas popular with off-road vehicles, said the permit process must be streamlined. But he said he was unwilling to alter the law immediately.

"I think three weeks to get a permit for staging for OHV activity is too long," he said. "For all the good the ordinance has done, that may be beyond what the board's intent was."

With more than 100 people voicing their views to supervisors, the hearing lasted all afternoon. The board began taking public comment at about 1:30 p.m. and didn't wrap up until 5:40 p.m.

Jenny Doling, a Yucca Valley lawyer and off-highway-vehicle rider, said special permits are typically for large events such as concerts, not riding motorcycles.

"This is why we are here today, to correct a wrong," Doling said.

Supporters of the law, carrying signs reading "Stop ORV Outlaws," "Dust Noise Trespass Harassment," and "No Trespassing on My Land," gathered in front of the County Government Center in San Bernardino before the start of Tuesday's meeting to urge supervisors not to tinker with the restrictions.

"It is already a fair and effective document and should be upheld and renewed," said Chris Carraher, a Wonder Valley resident and founding member of the group OHV Watch.

County code enforcement officials said the law is proving effective. It provides specific measures that can be used for enforcement, said Randy Rogers, head of county code enforcement.

Rogers said any time a local government attempts to regulate a person's leisure activities, the move will prove controversial. But this law was not developed in a vacuum, he said. Both sides were present during the debate and had input, Rogers said.

Sheriff Gary Penrod said deputies needed the law to deal with riders on private property.

"We need to have some kind of enforcement tool," he said.

Strict off-road rules are upheld by SB Board of Supervisors

  • Posted on: 22 August 2007
  • By: admin

From the LA Times 8/22/07

Strict off-road rules are upheld

By Sara Lin August 22, 2007

Link

Spurred by desert homeowners tired of noise and dust, the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to uphold an ordinance that clamps down on off-road riders gathering in groups or trespassing on private land.

Analysis of Friends of Giant Rock Proposal Regarding the ORV Ordinance

  • Posted on: 2 July 2007
  • By: admin

REVISION OF SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY ORDINANCE 3973
AS PROPOSED BY FRIENDS OF GIANT ROCK

INTERPRETATION AND RESPONSE

Community ORV Watch - July 2007

INTRODUCTION:

The Friends of Giant Rock proposal to revise San Bernardino County off-road vehicle Ordinance 3973 is not a proposal simply to revise that important Ordinance; it is a radical proposal to destroy that Ordinance. The removal of the trespass and staging provisions would gut the law and render it close to useless, sending us back to the conflict, lawlessness, and wasted enforcement resources that prevailed before the Ordinance went into effect. It would set the clock in reverse and blast us back to the “sand age.”

Reckless off-roaders called scourge

  • Posted on: 29 June 2007
  • By: admin

From the LA Times, June 29, 2007:

Riders who stray from legal trails damage watersheds, help spread invasive species and contribute to fire hazards, a group says.
By Alison Williams, Times Staff Writer
June 29, 2007

A new group of retired land managers and forest rangers said Thursday that reckless off-road vehicle recreation was the No. 1 threat to public lands in the West.

The 13-member Rangers for Responsible Recreation said it was voicing the concerns of many federal land management employees in the West, including in California, who report that an increasing number of riders and the growing power of the vehicles are endangering natural resources and public safety.

Spokesmen for the group were participating in a teleconference from Tucson that was arranged by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. PEER, which describes itself as an "alliance of local, state and federal resource professionals," helped found the new organization.

Damage from off-road vehicles is worst when riders leave designated routes and head into sensitive areas such as fragile desert and riparian zones, members of the new group said.

Read the whole story here.

Goto the PEER site and send a message to your representative.

Read an editorial from the Salt Lake Tribune supporting the PEER efforts, that concludes:

"ATV groups rightly say peer enforcement is key, but obviously that isn't enough. Only tough laws that are enforced can keep ATV scofflaws on the straight and narrow."

San Bernardino County Resolution to Address Aggravated Trespass, Intimidation and Harassment by Off-Road Vehicles

  • Posted on: 28 April 2007
  • By: admin

We will present the following resolution to the San Bernardino Board of Supervisors at the hearing where they will consider renewal of the ORV ordinance passed last year:

Whereas the sales of off-road vehicles have increased dramatically over the last few years …

Whereas city, county and federal law enforcement agencies report the growing problem of illegal off-road-vehicle activities in San Bernardino County…

Officers hear fewer off-road complaints this holiday

  • Posted on: 21 February 2007
  • By: admin

From the Hi-Desert Star

By Mark Wheeler / Hi-Desert Star
Tuesday, February 20, 2007 10:53 PM PST

MORONGO BASIN - The Presidents' Day weekend was, by law-enforcement accounts, reasonably uneventful on the off-road vehicle front this year. Historically, the occasion has ranked second only to Thanksgiving weekend for citizen complaints about ORV activity in the Basin, but a pre-planned increase in enforcement presence this year seems to have had results.

Off-road trespass, vandalism getting worse

  • Posted on: 10 February 2007
  • By: admin

Published in the Hi-Desert Star:

By Phil Klasky / Wonder Valley
Friday, February 9, 2007 11:08 PM PST

Hi-Desert residents didn't have much of a chance to celebrate the new county ordinance that helps curb off-road-vehicle trespass and destruction of our communities before a push back by riders that has made things worse. Just ask your local sheriff and homeowner.

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