September 11, 2013

County gives up Mojave Preserve roads

San Bernardino County no longer will handle their upkeep, which will now be the domain of the National Parks Service

The National Park Service will take over a dozen San Bernardino County roads in the Mojave National Preserve.


San Bernardino County turned over about a dozen roads in the Mojave Preserve to the National Parks [sic] Service this week, fulfilling one of the requirements in a legal settlement it agreed to last year.

The county sued the federal government in 2006 over its rights to the roads because county crews had been maintaining them for decades before the preserve was created as part of the 1994 Desert Protection Act.

In the settlement last year with the Department of Interior and three conservation groups, the county agreed to give up its claims to the roads. In turn, the federal government agreed to maintain them and keep them open.

The Board of Supervisors formally approved the agreement at its Tuesday, Sept. 10, meeting.
Environmental groups had backed the settlement, saying it would keep the roads open while also protecting desert tortoises, bighorn sheep and other sensitive species along the routes in the eastern Mojave Desert.

County officials were concerned about the federal agency maintaining the roads, some of which cross private lands, and on which many residents rely.

Don Holland, special assistant to Supervisor Robert Lovingood, whose 1st District includes the preserve, said a separate agreement with the federal agency fully protects county residents. The road must be kept to a “commercially viable” standard, he said.

Lovingood was out of town this week but Board Chairwoman Janice Rutherford read a statement from him at Tuesday’s meeting saying that his office plans to work with the county Public Works Department in monitoring the terms of the agreement.

“It is important to ensure that the identified roads that will be transferred to the National Park Service remain open and accessible to all residents and visitors,” Lovingood said in the statement.