“Inyo County has old-growth forests and pristine alpine lakes nestled between granite peaks that top 14,000 feet. Home to bears and marmots, this remote California county also boasts volcanic tablelands, high-elevation desert, and the oldest trees on Earth. Many endangered and threatened species live here, including mountain yellow-legged frogs, western yellow-billed cuckoo, desert tortoise, and the endangered Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep.
“Our towns were boarding up,” says Randy Gillespie, who repairs OHVs and used to own a Honda and Yamaha motorcycle dealership in Bishop. During the financial crisis of the late 2000s, Gillespie and a group of other locals came up with an idea: If the county could develop OHV-accessible trails connecting Eastern Sierra towns like Independence, Lone Pine, and Bishop to the Inyo National Forest, BLM land, and campgrounds, people on ATVs and dirt bikes could drive in and out of town unhindered, without having to load and unload vehicles from a trailer. Ideally, this enticement would bring in throngs of tourists, and their tourist dollars. They called the dream “Adventure Trails of the Eastern Sierra.”
Undeterred by state law, boosters of the Adventure Trails persuaded the Inyo Board of Supervisors to ask legislators in Sacramento for an exemption. Sacramento obliged with Assembly Bill 628, which would grant Inyo County the ability to allow OHVs on roads as long as 10 miles. The Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, the Wilderness Society, Desert Protective Council, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, California Native Plant Society, Center for Sierra Nevada Conservation, and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility all opposed the bill, on the grounds that increased OHV traffic would endanger plants and wildlife on public lands. In 2011, the legislature passed it.”