Lawsuit Filed on Inyo County’s Adventure Trails

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Lawsuit Filed on Inyo County’s Adventure Trails

Ill-conceived Plan Would Turn Owens Valley Into Noisy, Polluted ORV Playground

Bishop, Calif. — In response to Inyo County’s adopting a new road system that for the first time allows off-road vehicles on its public roads, the Center for Biological Diversity and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility today challenged the so-called Adventure Trails System in state court. In January the county adopted a system that could open 242 miles along 38 county and city roads across western Inyo County to dirt bikes and all-terrain vehicles, allowing them to drive with current street traffic and pedestrians.

The proposal would increase ORV traffic, noise and air pollution in the eastern Sierras, Owens Valley and beyond, as well as increase degradation of streams and wildlife habitat. Affected towns include Bishop, Lone Pine and Big Pine. While the county approved going forward with only seven of the roads at this time, the remaining 31 roads could be put into play in future.

“This so-called ‘Adventure Trails System’ project is a disaster in the making. It’s opening the floodgates to illegal ORV activities that hurt wildlife, foul the air, generate noise pollution and harm people’s safety,” said Ileene Anderson with the Center for Biological Diversity.

Inyo County supports many rare and imperiled species, including threatened and endangered plants, fish, birds, mammals and other wildlife, all of which could suffer from increased ORV activities. The program could increase and encourage illegal ORV use in some of the most sensitive public lands in the Owens Valley, eastern Sierras, and Death Valley National Park. Both the Forest Service and the National Park Service have had concerns about the lack of analysis of impacts on the public lands they manage.

The off-road industry itself warns against using ATVs on public roads, and the state of California only approved the project after indemnification; Inyo County will bear any liability, but dismissed this issue, citing a “liability insurance pool.”

“A small group of off-roaders has convinced Inyo County supervisors to force this project on unwilling residents, who not only bear the social and environmental impacts, but are also the ones who will foot the bill for inevitable injuries,” said Karen Schambach with Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

In 2011 the California legislature adopted A.B. 628, which allowed Inyo County to establish a pilot project to designate combined-use roads up to 10 miles long on unincorporated county roads to link existing ORV trails on lands managed by the federal Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service. Inyo’s system gerrymanders the roads, which are linked to create roads in excess of 10 miles, include roads within the city boundaries of Bishop, and lead to Death Valley National Park, which does not allow ORVs.

New signs called “Cowboy Kiosks,” which direct ORV drivers onto now-quiet roads throughout the county, were constructed prior to the adoption of the system by the county and without environmental review, despite the fact that they are part of the project.

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