Center for Biological Diversity

Rare Algodones Dunes Habitat Under Attack - Again

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For more than a decade, the Center for Biological Diversity has been fighting to keep southeastern California’s Algodones Dunes -- the largest dune complex in the country -- a safe haven for the rare plants and animals that call the shifting sands and pocket oases home. Now we need your help to make sure the dunes and the wildlife they support keep their protection.

Unchecked ORV use threatens the dunes and their unique plants and animals. These remarkable and rare species -- including the secretive flat-tailed horned lizard, endemic Peirson's milkvetch and Algodones sunflower, desert tortoise and 21 species of insects only known from the Algodones Dunes --  barely eke out existence under unrelenting sun, sand-blasting winds and sparse rains, only to meet their demise by being squashed under churning ORV tires.

The Center has had great success in protecting large swaths of key habitat from off-road ruin, but now, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is proposing to eliminate protections for the dunes' endangered species put in place a decade ago under President Clinton.

Secretary Salazar's plan would sacrifice unique desert species and allow ORVs to run unrestricted through the fragile dunes ecosystem. Salazar’s Bureau of Land Management, which manages these unique public lands, is proposing to expand ORV-accessible areas by as much as 45 percent (adding almost 40,000 additional acres to the nearly 88,000 acres already open to unrestricted ORV use).

The Algodones Dunes need your support for increased protection.
Please write to oppose any expansion of ORV areas and voice your support today for additional conservation for the rare plants and animals that call the Algodones Dunes home.

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Please submit comments by August 9, 2010.

Algodones Dunes photo (c) Andrew Harvey.

The Algodones Dunes stretch 40 miles north from the U.S.-Mexico border in western Imperial County, California. Biologically unique on a global scale, the region's extremely dry conditions, radical temperature swings, and ever-changing wind-sculpted landscape provide habitat for rare species evolved to live nowhere else, including reptiles, plants and over 20 insects. The eastern dunes act as a natural dam to block waters flowing toward the Salton Sea from the Chocolate Mountains, creating special desert pools that support a rich and diverse woodland community known as microphyll woodlands.

The shifting sands also attract ORV-users who tear up the fragile landscape with their high-powered machines, spewing large amounts of dust and other pollutants into an already compromised air quality basin. Due to Center-led efforts, some areas of the dunes have been protected for nearly a decade. But now Interior Secretary Ken Salazar‘s Bureau of Land Management is back-sliding, proposing to open more land to ORV mayhem. Currently, 87,713 acres of the dunes have no restrictions for ORV riding, and the agency is proposing to add an additional 39,703 acres of unrestricted ORV areas -- dooming the plants and animals that currently live there. If the proposal succeeds, only 4 percent of the area would be closed to ORV activity. The value of limiting the number of ORVs on the dunes at any one time is also not addressed, despite

The proposed Imperial Sand Dunes (another name for the Algodones Dunes) Recreation Area Management Plan and other information is available at