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Environmentalists Try To Limit Off-Road Vehicle Use At Ocotillo Wells

Aired 5/21/14 on KPBS News.

A Superior Court judge is allowing a challenge to an open-riding policy at Ocotillo Wells off-road vehicle park.

A California judge is allowing a lawsuit to move forward that aims to protect natural and cultural resources in one of the state's largest off-road vehicle parks.

Desert Protective Council

Sign in the sand at Ocotillo Wells asks riders to stay away from area so plants can rehabilitate.

The Desert Protective Council has worked for years to keep vehicles on marked trails at the Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area. The park spans 85,000 acres in the Imperial County desert. The landscape is dry, but has creosote and ambrosia plants and the park has several Native American cultural sites.

The Desert Protective Council's Terry Weiner is among those trying to eliminate the park's open-riding policy. That policy allows off-road vehicles to go anywhere inside the park.

"We have been pointing out to them, their own staff reports saying that this open-riding policy is really degrading the resources out there," Weiner said.

California Department of Parks officials did not return calls seeking comment. State officials had asked the judge to dismiss the case, which the judge refused to do. The case could go to trial this fall.

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Avatar for user 'RLA'

RLA | May 20, 2014 at 9:15 a.m. ― 2 years, 10 months ago

This is another example of the extreme environmentalists trying to outlaw access to public lands by anyone except their elite clique. The OHV area was set aside for use to appease the elites many years ago . The concentration of use would not be an issue if there was more area for legitimate motorized recreation.

This lawsuit is pure harassment meant to exclude rather than include public access. Their concern is not for the flora or fauna - it is simply another example of irrational environmentalism. They didn't stop the wind farms that scar the area south of Ocotillo Wells, they favor covering the desert with giant solar generation plants, but don't let anybody else dare try to use these already restricted public lands.

The OHV community has fought previous efforts to close access to the desert and hopefully they will prevail here. Just remember that the beneficiaries here are the lawyers. This will drag out for years, clogging the courts and reducing funds that could be better used for education and development of OHV activities.

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Avatar for user 'JWK'

JWK | May 20, 2014 at 11:31 a.m. ― 2 years, 10 months ago

It amazes me that spoiled brats with machines think it is OK to destroy everything in their path for their adrenaline rush! These environments are very fragile. Do you not have any respect for life other than your own?

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | May 20, 2014 at 4:05 p.m. ― 2 years, 10 months ago


California law already prohibits off road vehicles from damaging the environment.


CA Vehicle Code Section 38319: Operation Causing Damage

No person shall operate, nor shall an owner permit the operation of, an off-highway motor vehicle in a manner likely to cause malicious or unnecessary damage to the land, wildlife, wildlife habitat or vegetative resources.

Effective January 1, 1977.


It is about time California enforced EXISTING laws!

I hope the Desert Protective Council is successful in restricting ORV use and thank them for all their hard work!

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Avatar for user 'offroadracer516'

offroadracer516 | May 21, 2014 at 10:02 a.m. ― 2 years, 10 months ago

My family has been riding in ocotillo wells for generations. These Power Hungry Eco Nazi groups such as PEER and DPC are out for nothing but there own sick agenda. They just lost the fight for Glamis. A fight that took ten years and proved in the end to be a bunch of made up trash. Hence the reason we just got back 40,000 acres for open ohv use. Hundreds of thousands of people go to ocotillo wells for OPEN OHV RIDING. It is an OPEN OHV PARK. That is what it was put aside for. If these groups have there way we will loose all public lands. They really do go after one spot after another. Anza borago is huge. Yet they have to come into the OHV park and complain about OHV riding? Its insane and makes me sick. And its always the same groups doing it. So glad I am part of a group that is fighting these insane eco nazi power hungry pushes.
The voice of a few should be able to put down the voice of many. And thats just what groups like PEER and DPC are. Voices of few trying to take down the voice of many. If you want to keep your public lands open. Join a group like Corva,EcoLogic,Tierra del sol 4x4 or the Fight for ocotillo wells facebook page. All four of these groups care about public land use. Peer and DPC just want nothing more then to take it away. When they get there way you will only be able to walk around the deserts and even that will be on trails they see fit.

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Avatar for user 'offroadracer516'

offroadracer516 | May 21, 2014 at 10:06 a.m. ― 2 years, 10 months ago

What they left out of the article was what the judge said.. PEER's task to prove would be "formidable".

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Avatar for user 'Cdub'

Cdub | May 21, 2014 at 10:40 a.m. ― 2 years, 10 months ago

Ocotillo Wells is a postage stamp on the map, a small area designated for off road and it is a HUGE benefit for the thousands of families that go and recreate there. I've been going to Ocotillo Wells for about 20 years and I haven't seen any major damage or change in the environment. They complain about erosion? Seriously? The main erosion is caused by flash floods!

Most of Ocotillo Wells is wide open area and mud hills. And they want to limit off roading to only designated trails? This would RUIN the experience of off roading in Ocotillo Wells and it would make it much more DANGEROUS forcing everyone to funnel together onto the main trails.

PEER and DPC are against all off roading and their end goal is to eliminate it. They are enviro-nazi's attempting to force their will on the rest of us. Let us have this small area and leave us alone!

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | May 21, 2014 at 12:28 p.m. ― 2 years, 10 months ago

Not one of the commenters above had a response to my post indicating what many ORV people are doing is already illegal.

They only use ridiculous terms like "eco-nazi" and think they have the right to do whatever they please. Sorry, but the environment is more important than your need for adrenaline.

Have you ever thought about hiking or mountain biking in Ocotillo Wells instead? It is a much better experience.

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Avatar for user 'savetheplanet'

savetheplanet | May 21, 2014 at 12:34 p.m. ― 2 years, 10 months ago

Enough is enough. We really need to focus our resources in other areas. Our state is falling apart financially. Redirect these resources to our schools, public services and infastructure.
Glamis should be a glaring example of a path not to travel. Motorized recreation has been going on in these areas for decades and the plants quoted in this study continue to survive.
STOP THE MADNESS! Find another cause to invest your time in.

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Avatar for user 'offroadracer516'

offroadracer516 | May 21, 2014 at 12:44 p.m. ― 2 years, 10 months ago

Californiadefender. Ocotillo Wells is an OPEN OHV USE AREA. That is what it was set aside for. Key word is OPEN OHV USE. Not for mountan biking. Not for hiking. Just because you see those as better experiences. Does not meant the rest of us have to do the same. That's the issue with people like you. You dont like something. So you try and take it away even when other people enjoy the very thing you are taking away. My family has been using the area for generations. We have sooooo many areas closed off to ohv use to protect the environment. And you still want to come into the little area we have set aside for ohv use and complain. Sorry the small number of people that agree with you are not more important then the tens of thousands of people that agree with public open ohv use. All stuff like this does is waste tax payer money. No one I know wants to go walk around a desert. NO THANKS!

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | May 21, 2014 at 2:14 p.m. ― 2 years, 10 months ago


Once again, I am not suggesting new laws, but to enforce the EXISTING laws that OHV users frequently violate.

Keeping OHV users on marked trails allows for maximum use of the park while protecting the environment. Why is that not an acceptable solution?

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Avatar for user 'Steve92004'

Steve92004 | May 21, 2014 at 2:16 p.m. ― 2 years, 10 months ago

What a waste of tax payers money
These conservation groups should be forced to pay the court costs of these frivolous self-serving law suits
We live in Borrego Springs and Ocotillo Wells is our backyard
We AND the State Park support offroading at Ocotillo Wells
My next door neighbor is an environmental scientist for the state park and she insists that the offroad activity is not detrimental to the area.

To the Desert Protective Council... we say get out... we don't want you... we don't need you
Just leave and stop wasting public resources

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Avatar for user 'Steve92004'

Steve92004 | May 21, 2014 at 2:21 p.m. ― 2 years, 10 months ago

CaliforniaDefender, aren't you that racist guy that posted all that stuff about Obama and his race? "Obama was clearly elected because of his race" etc etc

It's pretty clear you have other issues you should be attending to

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Avatar for user 'Cdub'

Cdub | May 21, 2014 at 2:22 p.m. ― 2 years, 10 months ago

quoted this law-
"No person shall operate, nor shall an owner permit the operation of, an off-highway motor vehicle in a manner likely to cause malicious or unnecessary damage to the land, wildlife, wildlife habitat or vegetative resources."

Malicious or unnecessary damage - no we don't cause that. But if anyone does- the State parks Rangers can cite them a ticket. Very vague wording though. How do they define "malicious or unnecessary" anyway? I guess, all the bird slaughtering wind mills that they put out in Ocotillo City are ok with them? How bout Geo-thermal plants, are those ok? Guess it depends who you ask and what their motivations are.

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Avatar for user 'Desertlover'

Desertlover | May 21, 2014 at 2:30 p.m. ― 2 years, 10 months ago

Defender, how come you arent complaining about solar farms and giant windmills? Ocotillo wells has remained mostly unchanged for the past 30 years without any group "Protecting" it.

There are people that are reckless in every circle but blaming a community as a whole for the 1%ers is simply irresponsible and spiteful.

I understand you are not an OHV user. But this is an "OPEN AREA" OHV Park. And no we arent out there trying to destroy the areas we so much enjoy to constantly return to. WE as OHV users are for more responsible that you know. So a new trail is going to cause what problems exactly?

So what are you suggesting, maybe we can put chains on both sides of every trail to keep us "Spoiled Brats" on track? Or maybe hire another 200 rangers and airplanes to constantly patrol the area looking for destructive OHVers?

I am curious to hear what you think the answer is to this whole situation is?

Its too bad that most of these so called "Environmentalist" have to skew the facts in their favor to try and get their way, sad world we live in today.

I bet when an big Energy company wants to built a giant Solar farm with windmills in Ocotillo Wells nobody will be trying to "Protect" it then.

What about the BLM having to euthanize all those Endangered Tortoises? Maybe the time spent by those trying to "Protect" OW should maybe fight a real problem? Or is this just a crazy thought?

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Avatar for user 'Desertlover'

Desertlover | May 21, 2014 at 2:30 p.m. ― 2 years, 10 months ago

Link to the tortoise problem, this is what you should be fighting for.

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Avatar for user 'offroadracer516'

offroadracer516 | May 21, 2014 at 2:42 p.m. ― 2 years, 10 months ago

Keeping people on closed trails increases the danger ten fold. We are already crammed into an extremely tiny area for the amount of people that attend the park. It was set up as an OPEN OHV AREA. Key word is OPEN How many times do I have to repeat that. Are you deaf? Can you not read?
Its laughable that you would say maximum use of the park. The idea they put fourth is for minimum use to the park. Anza Borago is the place where its closed trails ment to protect every part of the environment. Ocotillo wells if for familys to go on open ohv rides and enjoy the 80,000 acres. Not the closed trail low speed every where non sense these groups want to put fourth. As I have said my family and others having been using this area for over thirty years. How is this plant even around if the damage is being done is so bad. Its all made up nonsense. Glamis is a prime example. For ten years 40,000 acres was blocked from the public due to these very groups. The closure was later found to be plain made up garbage on there part. Guess what glamis just gave the public back its land. Land that should never have been taken in the first place. I can see protecting places that need protecting. But to come into OPEN OHV area and complain about ohv use.That is just plain insane.

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Avatar for user '416phil'

416phil | May 21, 2014 at 3:38 p.m. ― 2 years, 10 months ago

JWK, It amazes me that ignorant fools assume everyone who rides an OHV is a spoiled brat hell-bent on destroying everything in their path.

CADefender, the rangers out there already enforce the laws. I've seen them ticketing idiots trying to use native plants for fire wood.

"Malicious or unnecessary damage to the land" is rather vague.
While you may interpret that as OHV tracks, one might interpret "unnecessary damage" as MTB tracks or hikers' footprints. Maybe seal the whole area off to anyone, just to be safe?

If we wanted to stay on marked trails and singletracks we'd ride McCain Valley.

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | May 21, 2014 at 5:16 p.m. ― 2 years, 10 months ago


Your post makes sense. It is not appropriate to condemn the many for the actions of a few. Although from the comments on here, clearly some are part of that few.

The law is vague and needs to be tightened up to make sure people can enjoy the park and protect the environment at the same time. Not to mention more rangers are clearly needed to enforce the law.

Have fun, but protect our fragile deserts for the enjoyment of future generations.

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Avatar for user 'OffroadFamily'

OffroadFamily | May 21, 2014 at 11:24 p.m. ― 2 years, 10 months ago

CADefender, I have been recreating out in the CA deserts since the early 70's on motorcycles. My parents introduced us to them and I have done the same to my family. I can only speak for myself, but I can not see a noticeable difference in the desert landscape in Ocotillo or the Red Mountain (off of HWY 395) area's in the many years I have been going out there. The landscape just hasn't changed.

In all of the 40 years I have been riding my motorcycles out in these areas, not once have I came across a group of hikers out camping. These areas are set aside for OHV enthusiasts to enjoy in a manner that may not be compatible with foot traffic. There is nothing wrong with that. There are far, far more areas set aside just for hiking that exclude OHV's. Those environmental areas are protected to make sure people can enjoy those parks (Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Anza Borrego, the list goes on, and on) To expect the same caliber and level of environmental protection in an OHV area is not rationale or reasonable. Why would a hiker who wants to experience nature and all that it has to offer, go to an OHV area to do that when there are a multitude of fantastic experiences set aside for just that purpose. Let the OHV community ride in the area's set aside for us without the incmberances that are mandated for the natural wilderness area's. It is called compromising.

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Avatar for user 'CFrantz'

CFrantz | May 22, 2014 at 6:30 a.m. ― 2 years, 10 months ago

The referencing of 38319 can stop already, because it's not as good a point as you think it is. You're ignoring the qualification that what's illegal is 'malicious, unnecessary' destruction of habitat. While your interpretation may put all offroading in this category, the state of California does not agree. Hence the existence of SVRAs in the first place.
As far as 'why dont you just walk', why don't you see where this is going. Suffice it to say that's a very narrow-minded approach to life in general. It's like asking a gay man why he doesn't just marry a woman.
We're talking about a postage stamp. Area wise, .0008 of the state. And what you don't understand about our beloved little slice of desert, having obviously never enjoyed it as we do, is that open riding is crucial to its existence. Without open riding, it would be an impossibly crowded, dusty, dangerous place. No longer a family environment where kids learn to ride.
Camping would also be a mess if we couldnt just pull off and park in an open space. Beyond a logistical nightmare- an impossibility.
We love our resource. We take care of it. Leave us alone. Go bother somebody who's actually doing malicious damage to the environment. Mega-dairies. Fracking. Somebody other than honest families trying to responsibly enjoy a public resource.

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Avatar for user 'socaltaco65'

socaltaco65 | May 22, 2014 at 12:17 p.m. ― 2 years, 10 months ago

Directly from the Ocotillo Wells SVRA page

More than 85,000 acres of magnificent desert are open for off-highway exploration and recreation within the boundaries portrayed on the park map are operated by California State Parks. Outside the boundaries, to the south and east, large tracts of BLM land (U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management) are also open to off-highway vehicles.

Below is a section from the same opening statement, there are ENOUGH closed and regulated portions of the park already. The open off highway areas are already being used within the plan for the SVRA. You bored treehuggers need to get a hobby and stop messing with others hobbies/sports. Not to mention the fees associated with the use of said vehicles generate revenue for the state.

The western boundary and part of the northern boundary connect with the half-million acre Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, which is closed to off-highway recreation, but open to exploration by highway-legal vehicles along established primitive roads.

And if you truly are worried about the environment then stop NAFTA and all the unregulated/non-smoged Mexican vehicles from crossing into Ca. and our highways with goods and produce.

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Avatar for user '416phil'

416phil | May 22, 2014 at 12:50 p.m. ― 2 years, 10 months ago

The destertusa website has a map of the area in question and puts its size in perspective.

Ocotillo Wells SVRA is 80,000 acres of open riding, adjacent to 500,000 acres of ALREADY PROTECTED DESERT PARK!

In addition there are landmarks within that 80,000 acres that are roped off, that offroaders RESPECT and only visit on foot or view from a distance (Gas Domes, areas in Shell Reef, Pumpkin Patch).

Forcing people to stay on trails in an open riding area doesn't make sense. In some areas it is just that. Open. No trails, bushes or cacti. In other areas the natural landscape keeps people on the paths.

There is a canyon off Split Mountain Road that can only be accessed by street legal vehicles. Plenty of hiking, rock climbing and mountian biking to be had there.

I loathe groups like PEER, DPC and Sierra Club. The only good thing that has come about because of them are groups like CORVA, EcoLogic,Tierra del Sol 4x4 and Fight for Ocotillo Wells. They prove that the offroad community can police itself and responsibly enjoy what little land we have left.

More rangers may or may not help but the key is to educate the public to ensure our limited resource is available for future generations.

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Avatar for user 'socaltaco65'

socaltaco65 | May 22, 2014 at 4:36 p.m. ― 2 years, 10 months ago

Much like the grading of Diablo Drop into Fish Creek that is now Subaru/Prius friendly, the Prius/Subaru driving Tree huggers want to make it like a drive thru Disney land where you can drive up with your Hybrid/Electric car and walk up to said points of interest in their Birkenstocks...Enough is enough, its time to Rally!

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Avatar for user 'socaltaco65'

socaltaco65 | May 22, 2014 at 6:22 p.m. ― 2 years, 10 months ago

be sure to visit and voice your opinions of this group that has made it possible to attempt to close off one of the last off-roading areas in California.
Janet Anderson: President
Contact Janet Anderson:

Larry Klaasen: Treasurer
Contact Larry Klaasen:

Pauline Jimenez: Secretary
Contact Pauline Jimenez:

but yet let BLM Tortoises be Euthanized and make comments like this on their site:
The Desert Protective Council is proud to host its website on servers powered by Tortoise-Safe rooftop solar. For more on the benefits of distributed generation over desert-killing industrial-scale solar, visit our colleagues at Solar Done Right.

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Avatar for user 'socaltaco65'

socaltaco65 | May 22, 2014 at 6:25 p.m. ― 2 years, 10 months ago

For all those curious too, Terry Weiner is:
Terry Weiner, Imperial County Projects Coodinator
/> />(619) 342-5524

Hopefully on their old site 2010 these contact points are still viable.

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Avatar for user 'Desertmade'

Desertmade | May 26, 2014 at 4:03 a.m. ― 2 years, 10 months ago

It seems to me that PEER aims to take seize of the land, drive out the people who use the land and convert it to what their idea of a better land is. Now correct me if I am wrong but I seem to remember learning about this happening many times before in history. So please allow me to understand you better, you are a group of environmental heroes, vigilantes that seek to put and end of the destruction of foliage, the desecration of the land, and the dastardly doings of a depraved community and the devastation that develops when an meets machine! Hmm sounds exhausting. What I see are a bunch if hypocrites who are so willing to preach about the environment and the preservation but fail to realize that they too are the very essence of their anger. So tell me how many animals were rescued in the construction of your office you work out of. How many trees weren't sacrificed to make the paper you type up all your cute little arguments on for the judge. Did you know mountain bikes are just as capable of leaving marks in the sand as an OHV is and the production of hiking shoes is very harmful to the environment. Oh and by the way the operation of an OHV is not illegal in a designated area which is what ocotillo wells Is. So I am sorry but you don't have a valid argument there. It's kind of funny because I can't remember a trip without a trashwalk or at least an attempt to clean up the area however I have yet to see People is PEER t shirts out there picking up trash despite their so called cause. But you did drive all the way out there to take photos of people having fun and then left a pollution cloud as you drove away. Thanks for that by the way. Point is you people need to stop filling other peoples heads with your propaganda and find something that doesn't cost the tax payers to occupy your time. I hear underwater basket weaving is fun. I guess the main message I am trying to convey to you is that you people need to stop harassing out community get a life and stay out if ours because the time you spend trying to take could be spent giving back.

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Avatar for user 'sdreefer21'

sdreefer21 | May 26, 2014 at 2:36 p.m. ― 2 years, 10 months ago

Limiting ohv activity to just singular areas will cause for greater destruction than allowing the free rain of the area. Just look at what the human foot is capable of on the climb up cowles mountain. The train has been re-done many times due to the constant foot traffic. So should we tell people not to enjoy this beautiful place? Why not have a little compassion for our neighbors having fun in the desert? Stop trying to infringe on the freedoms of humans. It is our world to enjoy. There are millions of acres of untouched land to enjoy from a hike, the air, or a photograph. Being a democratic world we live in, why not put it up to a vote? My guess is that the eviro whackos would get crushed by people who have hobbies and families. The courts have far more important issues to tend to.

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