Algodones Dunes: call for public comments

Doug Yanega dyanega at POP.UCR.EDU
Mon Apr 1 09:55:20 CST 2002

Hi. I don't do this sort of quasi-political posting very often, but
an area near and dear to me - the Algodones Dunes in extreme SE
California - appears to be under a significant and little-publicized
threat, and I thought that given the biological importance of the
dozens of plants and animals endemic to this enormous dune system, it
was definitely worth bringing it to the attention of the scientific
community. A recent proposal to review the land management plan for
the area (under BLM auspices) could potentially lead to the eventual
loss of natural vegetation from all but a small fraction of the total
area (over 400 square miles; one of the U.S.'s largest dune areas).
Loss of the vegetation over this area would potentially mean the loss
of many species from most (if not all) of their present range; the
majority of these are insects and plants which are not listed, and
have never been assessed for whether they might go extinct if the
dunes are turned over to recreational use. When we're dealing with
dozens of species found nowhere else in the world, proposals such as
this one should be a cause for concern to many of us. While I can't
guarantee my opinions are worthwhile, and don't really think people
should start writing letters just on my say-so, there *is* a public
comment period open, and folks can read the dense and obfuscating
documentation themselves on BLM's website at

My thoughts (for what they're worth): having read through the
documentation, there are 4 alternatives outlined and compared in the
Executive Summary; of these, Alternative 3, the "Natural and Cultural
Resource Protection" Alternative, appears to be the one that protects
the habitat the best. However, if one checks the comparison of
projected socioeconomic benefits of the various Alternatives, this
one has the lowest projected benefits (and also opens the least
amount of area to ORVers). It seems very likely, therefore, that all
of the local economic and recreational interests will be against this
Alternative, and they *will* be attending the upcoming public
hearings personally, meaning public comments via mail and e-mail are
likely to be crucial. The BLM itself has already classified
Alternative 2 (which supposedly represents the "compromise" position
where the recreational and conservation uses are "balanced") as their
Preferred Alternative, so getting them to opt for Alternative 3 is
going to *require* substantial opposition to their Preferred choice.
There were some 50,000 off-roaders at Algodones over the Easter
weekend, so there are a LOT of people who want increased access to
the area, and a lot of pressure on BLM to do so. I suspect that if
the scientific and environmental communities don't get involved, the
off-roader lobby will take precedence.
For those considering sending comments, I think the most important
thing to note is the following:
There is a table (ES-3) and some maps (figures 2-1 through 2-3)
showing planned use of various sub-areas within the dune system, and
there are three VERY substantial areas ("Mammoth", "Adaptive
Management", and "Buffer") which will be opened to motorized vehicles
under Alternatives 2 or 4. In fact, under the latter Alternatives,
only one sub-area, the North Algodones Wilderness, will be free of
motorized traffic, and this only represents about a fifth (or less)
of the entire dune system. While Alternative 3 does apparently open
*some* areas are presently closed to motorized traffic, it also
appears that the other Alternatives would open *everything* outside
of that one Wilderness area and probably result in the loss of nearly
*all* of the intact habitat that presently remains in those 4/5ths of
the dune system (for those who have never seen Algodones, areas with
ORV traffic literally have no vegetation; anything opened to
motorized vehicles soon becomes barren sand). The choices the BLM has
settled on seem basically to offer the lesser of three evils, since
the chances that the status quo will be maintained seem about zero.
Accordingly, I'd urge people to look over the proposal a bit, and
definitely submit comments.

Written and e-mail comments will be accepted through June 28, 2002.
Written comments should be mailed to the Bureau of Land Management,
El Centro Field Office, Attn: Jim Komatinsky, 1661 South 4th Street,
El Centro, CA. 92243. Email comments can be sent to

caisd at

The BLM website says that for more information one can contact Jim
Komatinsky at (760) 337-4400.


Doug Yanega        Dept. of Entomology         Entomology Research Museum
Univ. of California - Riverside, Riverside, CA 92521
phone: (909) 787-4315 (standard disclaimer: opinions are mine, not UCR's)
   "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
         is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82

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