August 2, 2012

BLM may close Mojave Desert trails

9.3 million acres of the western Mojave Desert
may be permanently closed to off-road recreation
by environmentalists and the courts.

Kris Reilly, Staff Writer
Victor Valley Daily Press

LUCERNE VALLEY • The public will have a chance to comment Saturday on a Bureau of Land Management plan that could prohibit the use of off-road trails throughout the Mojave Desert.

Some of the estimated 5,000 miles of remote dirt roads and trails in the region could be permanently closed to public access.

The Desert Advisory Council (a volunteer citizens’ advisory group) will hold an open house from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday at the Lucerne Valley Community Center and will provide maps of the local areas in question.

“Overwhelmingly, most citizens who come to our meetings are concerned that road closures are escalating” said Dinah Shumway, chair of a DAC task group holding the meeting. “(But) I suspect we’re going to have people on both sides, people for closing roads and people for keeping them open.”

The DAC is gathering community input about revisions to the West Mojave Plan, a BLM policy which aims to protect habitat for the desert tortoise and other wildlife on federal land. Environmental groups sued the BLM, alleging that the plan favored off-highway vehicle use over habitat conservation, and a judge ruled last year that the BLM would have to reevaluate the trail system.

Acting BLM Barstow Field Office Manager Mickey Quillman said meetings like Saturday’s will give the BLM a chance to get public input before making the revisions.

“The people have areas they like to go to for recreation, or areas that they are concerned about,” Quillman said. “This meeting will be mainly a fact-finding, informational meeting, and that information will come back to us.”

The West Mojave Plan affects 9.3 million acres in the western Mojave Desert, which includes the greater Victor Valley. The plan will not directly affect designated off-highway vehicle zones such as the Johnson Valley or Stoddard Wells OHV areas, but it could affect trails leading to and from those areas. Residential dirt roads will not be closed.

Quillman said this particular meeting would focus mainly on nearby areas — including Juniper Flats and Wonder Valley — but he said anyone is welcome to also submit information and opinions on trails outside of the immediate local area.

The Lucerne Valley Community Center is located at 33187 Old Woman Springs Road (Highway 247), just west of Pioneer Park.