New Nevada Monument to Be Rutted by Off-Road Desert Race
BLM Rigs Reviews to Route Vegas-Reno Race through Basin & Range Monument
Washington, DC — Just days after President Obama designated the Basin and Range National Monument, his Bureau of Land Management agreed to redirect a major off-road race through its most rugged tracts, according to a complaint filed by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The complaint charges the BLM with nullifying the presidential proclamation and breaking laws requiring public involvement and environmental review prior to any major federal action of this type.
On July 10, 2015, President Obama established the Basin and Range National Monument on 704,000 acres of some of the nation’s most undisturbed desert lands. Its purpose is to protect petroglyph and prehistoric rock art as well as significant wildlife habitat and migration corridors. By early August, race organizers said they had been coordinating with BLM staff to route the “most aggressive part of the race” through the newly designated monument, altering the race route used in the prior ten years.
The 2016 race is slated for August 19 and 20th, with the first day’s course running through the new monument. Last year’s race had approximately 300 riders; more than 200 have already registered for the upcoming race. Racers follow the same route with a new vehicle taking off every 30 seconds.
“BLM’s race plan makes a mockery out of President Obama’s monument declaration,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “BLM is playing fast and loose with its legal obligations in order to let hundreds of vehicles roar through fragile desert before the monument’s protections can be solidified.”
Not only has the public been left in the dark about race planning but earlier this month BLM invited public input about developing a monument management plan with no mention of the race. Moreover, in order for the race to go off as scheduled, BLM will have to conduct an environmental assessment with a very short-turn around which is improperly pre-determined to produce a Finding of No Significant Impact.
In a complaint sent today to the White House and Secretary of Interior, PEER argues that BLM is –
- Flouting the presidential monument proclamation directive that “motorized vehicle use in the monument shall be permitted only on roads existing as of the date of this proclamation”;
- Violating the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by pre-determining the outcome of a future environmental assessment to reach an unwarranted finding of no significant impact; and
- Deceiving the public by opening a bogus comment period on monument management that makes no mention of the upcoming race. Even after nearly a year of secret meetings with race organizers, BLM has issued no public notice about the race.
“This Monument does not belong to the BLM; it is not free to make secret side-deals about its treatment with favored friends,” Ruch added, noting that PEER is asking for an immediate review by entities higher ranking than the BLM. “If this is any indication of how BLM intends to manage this Monument, Lord help the Basin and Range.”