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Old 11-28-2006, 12:23 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Surprise Canyon Articles (CA)

http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la...ck=1&cset=true

Quote:
Will Surprise Canyon remain off limits to off-road drivers?
Four-wheel-drive enthusiasts want to reopen the wild road, but environmentalists say no. The fight over the state road is in federal court.
By Lee Romney, Times Staff Writer
November 28, 2006


Photo Gallery
Off-road warriors

Map

Five years after it was temporarily closed to off-road enthusiasts who winched their vehicles up its limestone waterfalls, a coveted canyon on Death Valley National Park's western edge has been reclaimed by nature's hand.

Thick willow groves have erased nearly all traces of the washed-out road that once pointed extreme sportsmen to the ruins of a onetime silver boom town. Bighorn sheep appear with greater frequency, conservationists note, and the endangered Inyo California towhee has returned.

But the battle for Surprise Canyon, home of the longest year-round stream in the Panamint Range, has revved up a notch: More than 100 four-wheel-drive aficionados determined to see their prized run reopened have filed a lawsuit in federal court that is being closely watched throughout the West.

The claim relies on a Civil War-era mining law that allowed counties and states to lay routes over federal land. Although the statute, known as RS 2477, was repealed three decades ago, routes established before then were allowed under a grandfather clause. A gravel toll road in Surprise Canyon that fell into public hands before succumbing to flooding is such a route, the lawsuit contends.

Battles over what routes qualify have intensified in recent years across Utah and other Western states, as emboldened counties, off-road enthusiasts and private landholders seek to wrest from federal hands thousands of old rights-of-way, rutted vehicle trails and even cattle paths.

But the Surprise Canyon claim — which demands that the Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service immediately reopen the canyon to vehicles — appears to be the first federal court fight over a California route.

Since the Surprise Canyon suit was filed in late August, Inyo and San Bernardino counties have filed separate RS 2477 federal court claims that assert local control over 18 other routes.

Six environmental groups are seeking to intervene in the Surprise Canyon case, hoping to see the canyon permanently closed and to weigh in on the antiquated statute.

"This is a law that was passed a year after Lincoln was assassinated and repealed 30 years ago, and its dead hand is still haunting the protection of our national parks," said Ted Zukoski, a Denver staff attorney with Earthjustice, which is representing the environmental groups. "What they are attempting to do is to undermine protection for these beautiful wild areas."

Although Utah "has really been the epicenter of this debate," Zukoski added, "it certainly seems like the California desert is becoming another area where there's a tremendous amount of pressure on this issue."

Brian Hawthorne of the Idaho-based Blue Ribbon Coalition, which represents off-road enthusiasts, said the disputes are real and must be resolved to clarify where vehicles are permitted.

Hawthorne said he'd prefer to see the conflicts settled outside court: A New Mexico congressman last month proposed legislation that would allow states or counties to gain title by producing any official map or survey made before 1976. But Hawthorne conceded that passage was unlikely.

"We are looking at a monumental battle over each and every one of these roads," said Hawthorne, whose group has not taken a stance on Surprise Canyon.

Built in 1874, Surprise Canyon Road carried miners to Panamint City. Constant washouts prompted regular rebuilding. But a 1984 flash flood wreaked havoc that no one chose to counter.

Then, in 1989, hard-core off-road enthusiasts stacked boulders and pruned back willows to clear a path for their tricked-out machines, forging a route that at times took them directly through the stream bed and — with the help of steel winch cables — up its seven slick waterfalls. (The road had previously covered the stream, pushing it underground in places, before flooding stripped the canyon to bedrock.)

The California Desert Protection Act in 1994 placed the upper portion of Surprise in Death Valley National Park and designated the Bureau of Land Management portion below as wilderness. But Congress excluded a narrow strip of land around the washed-out road. That made it legally open to off-roaders, and the canyon's cachet grew.

Critics of the riders say they destroyed sensitive riparian habitat of the Panamint daisy and Panamint alligator lizard and spilled oil, gas and antifreeze in the water. The riders counter that they maintained the ghost town buildings and regularly hauled out trash. They also point out that the road had been host to a steady stream of cars for decades.

Off-road use came to a halt in 2001 when, as the result of a settlement in a broader lawsuit filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, the canyon was temporarily closed pending a detailed joint environmental review by both federal agencies. (The current lawsuit demands that the canyon be reopened regardless of the review.)

The 2001 settlement noted that the smattering of property owners up the canyon would be exempted and could request a key to the gate barring access to the road. To the off-road winchers, that smelled like an opportunity.

"What would you do if you wanted to get up there?" asked Joe Stocker, 70, a retired millwright who made dozens of canyon winch runs and is a plaintiff in the new case. "You'd buy land up there."

One property owner sold — to off-road enthusiasts who formed two land partnerships at the heart of the current case. But the Ridgecrest field manager of the Bureau of Land Management denied keys to the new property owners, saying that their access "would result in appreciable disturbance or damage to federal lands and resources." Each was invited instead to apply for a permit. One owner did, to no avail.

The suit demands that the agencies process that application if the RS 2477 claim is not upheld.

With the gate still locked, the new owners turned to RS 2477. The lawsuit was filed in the District of Columbia on Aug. 31. Environmental groups filed a motion to intervene earlier this month.

"The canyon's dramatic recovery," they wrote, "could be short-lived if it is again opened to motorized use."

Consequences could be broader: Counties across California and elsewhere have for years passed resolutions claiming control of roadways under RS 2477. They have also filed claims with federal agencies that control the underlying land. But an appellate court ruled last year in a Utah case that only courts could determine the validity of such claims.

The ruling also said courts should look to state law to determine what qualifies as a road under the statute. Utah requires continuous use for a decade. Colorado and other states have much weaker definitions. The Surprise lawsuit may shed some light on the law here.

"It may answer a question in California: What is a road?" said Karen Budd-Falen, a Wyoming lawyer retained by the off-roaders.

Zukoski, of Earthjustice, said he believes only states and counties have the right to bring RS 2477 claims. But Budd-Falen argues that under California law, public use alone can create a road, without a formal county designation. That means, she says, that the public can also file the claim. A court determination that her clients are entitled to sue could set a precedent, she said.

A Bureau of Land Management spokeswoman in Sacramento said the agency could not comment on the lawsuit but confirmed it is the first RS 2477 court action against the bureau in California.

Alan Stein, deputy district manger for resources at the bureau's California Desert district office, said the designation of a right-of-way would leave open many questions about its scope, how it should be maintained and who gets to decide. "None of it is simple," Stein said.

The National Park Service, meanwhile, finds itself facing three such federal court challenges, two filed by counties last month in California. San Bernardino County's suit asserts a claim to 14 roads in the Mojave National Preserve, placed under federal control 12 years ago by the California Desert Protection Act.

The county maintained the roads, some of which are paved, and relies on them to provide services to residents, said San Bernardino deputy county counsel Charles Scolastico.

Inyo County's suit claims four longtime "county highways" that are now un-maintained dirt roads in Death Valley National Park. Two have been closed — illegally, Inyo County claims.

All roads are in wilderness protected under the 12-year-old desert act.

What the county wants to do with the roads is beside the point, said Ralph "Randy" Keller, Inyo County assistant counsel.

"State law says only the supervisors can close a county highway," he said. "They are county roads under county control and, without even consulting the county, they've been taken. It comes down to an issue of local control."

National Park Service West Coast spokeswoman Holly Bundock said she could not comment on specific litigation, but she added: "We don't invite vehicle access in wilderness areas because that's fundamentally in conflict with the Wilderness Act and our policies on managing the Wilderness Act."

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lee.romney@latimes.com
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Old 11-28-2006, 12:35 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Yep.

This one is much better...

http://www.sbsun.com/news/ci_4719696

Quote:
Suit filed to open remote road.
Homeowners, off-roaders claim access right


Chuck Mueller, Staff Writer
San Bernardino County SunArticle Launched:11/25/2006 12:00:00 AM PST

A long-simmering issue involving an obscure 19th-century law that grants rights of way on federal land is heading for court.

A major legal battle looms over the public's right to use a closed Inyo County road through remote Surprise Canyon to the ghost town of Panamint City in Death Valley National Park.

"Under law, the federal government must give private landowners access to their property," said Wyoming attorney Karen Budd-Falen, counsel to three groups of landholders who own property near the old mining camp. Their land is surrounded by federal land and can be reached by road only by a 132-year-old route through Surprise Canyon.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management installed a gate to close the road in mid-2001, sparking the court challenge by the landowners and off-road- vehicle groups that frequented the canyon.

Budd-Falen said the plaintiffs - the nonprofit Friends of the Panamint Valley, the Little Chief Millsite partnership, and landowner Bryan Lollich - contend the Civil War-era law granting right of way on public land must be upheld.

"Through the Mining Act of 1866, which later became Revised Statute 2477, Congress granted rights of way over unreserved public lands for the construction of highways," the Budd-Falen said.

"Passage of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 repealed RS 2477, but rights of way existing before its adoption on Oct. 21, 1976, were grandfathered in. This included the road through Surprise Canyon."

Lollich, vice president of Friends of Panamint Valley, noted that the Surprise Canyon Road was opened in 1874 as Panamint City became a silver-mining boomtown. As a valid right of way when the 1976 land policy act was adopted, "it remains a valid right of way," he said.

Plaintiffs in the civil suit filed with the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. Their property is surrounded by government land administered by the Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service.

The two agencies, part of the U.S. Department of Interior, are defendants in the case. They have until Dec. 11 to respond to the allegations before District Judge John Bates.

The 10,000-member California Off Road Vehicle Association is backing the plaintiffs' arguments. "We're totally behind them," said association President Ed Waldheim. "It's a travesty that the road through Surprise Canyon was closed. We worked hard with Congress to get a `cherry-stem' designation (to exclude the road from the wilderness area), and they're still trying to close us out."

Meanwhile, using the same mining law as its basis, San Bernardino County has filed a lawsuit against the Department of the Interior in U.S. District Court in Riverside in a move to protect public right of way on county-maintained roads in the Mojave National Preserve.

Under provisions of the Desert Protection Act, which created the national preserve in 1994, the Interior Department closed roads that are part of the county's highway system across federal lands, First District Supervisor Bill Postmus said.

The Interior Department has until Jan. 15 to respond to the suit.

Six environmental groups have asked the court to allow them to intervene in the case involving Surprise Canyon. They contend that previous off-road-vehicle activity has caused significant damage to wildlife habitat and riparian areas in Surprise Canyon.

Although the canyon has undergone "a remarkable transformation" since the road was closed in 2001, the environmentalists said, that "dramatic recovery could be short-lived if it is opened again to motorized use."

The environmental groups - the Sierra Club, The Wilderness Society, the National Parks Conservation Association, the Center for Biological Diversity, California Wilderness Coalition, and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility - claim an interest in the case as each has had a long history of involvement in protecting Surprise Canyon.

Three of the groups, they pointed out, filed a lawsuit in 2000 that brought about the closing of the Surprise Canyon Road. Three others worked to pass the California Desert Protection Act in 1994, which added the upper portion of Surprise Canyon to Death Valley National Park and created the 29,180-acre Surprise Canyon Wilderness.

Geary Hund, of the Wilderness Society's Idyllwild office, said the canyon was designated an area of critical environmental concern in 1980. "Its biological diversity is high due the presence of spring-fed streams," he noted."

Among creatures inhabiting the area are the desert bighorn sheep, more than 70 birds such as the prairie falcon and endangered Inyo towee, and the Panamint alligator lizard, isolated in the canyon since the Pleistocene epoch.

Chris Kassar, wildlife biologist with the Tucson, Ariz.-based Center for Biological Diversity, said allowing off-roaders back into Surprise Canyon would set back efforts toward survival of endangered species for decades. "Since the canyon stream is narrow, substantial adverse impacts, including pollution of the water, would result," she said.

According to Kassar, four-wheel-drive enthusiasts created their own route through the scenic canyon, filled parts of the streambed with rocks and winched their vehicles over near-vertical waterfalls. "The BLM should never have allowed this kind of extreme off-road-vehicle use in Surprise Canyon to occur," Hund said. "It pollutes the five-mile-long perennial stream through the canyon, damages habitat and degrades the wilderness."

But Larry Robertson, vice president for land use for the California Off Road Vehicle Association, said the allegations are exaggerated.

"Off-road vehicle groups have protected Surprise Canyon, but with the closure of the road a lot of vandalism is occurring," he said. "Without adequate protection, a lot of old mining cabins are being destroyed. "Only a handful of off-roaders are winching their vehicles up the cliffs. The winching process, which uses steel anchors placed there by miners who lifted wagons up in the 1930s, are used only in a small corner of the canyon."

The association is assisting the plaintiffs with legal help and funds, Robertson said. "Off-roading activity was shut down two years ago after the gate to the road was closed, and now we're trying to assert our rights under RS2477.

"The intent of the statute is to prevent the government from arbitrarily and capriciously closing dedicated roads on public lands."

Contact writer Chuck Mueller at (760) 252-3751 or via e-mail at chuck.mueller@sbsun.com.
And then there is this one. He really didnt do his homework...



There was also one in the Inyo Register, and several online articles. Some copies of the green press releases and others full articles.

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Old 11-28-2006, 03:12 PM   #3 (permalink)
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i love the way the LA times seems to portray the enviro side as the good guys and the 4xs as the devil who will destroy all living things in the canyon. fauckers.
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Old 11-28-2006, 06:54 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Journalism 101.

Got angle?

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Old 11-29-2006, 05:20 AM   #5 (permalink)
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and i believe none of these inviro nuts drive cars or wipe their ass with what use to be a tree!
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Old 11-29-2006, 08:34 AM   #6 (permalink)
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These enviros are nuts as we all know - but the problem is they are willing to go to great lengths to see changes made - I was once told - " you have to get inside the system if you really want changes in your favor " - implying getting 4+ year degree, working for gov...this is a common thing among them.
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Old 11-30-2006, 02:16 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Heres another...

From...
http://www.hidesertstar.com/articles...news/news3.txt

Quote:
Wednesday, November 22, 2006 12:04 AM PST

Surprise Canyon’s fate may have desert-wide implications

By Mark Wheeler / Hi-Desert Star

DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK— If a suit filed in federal court asking for motor-vehicle access to Surprise Canyon here is successful, the precedent set would give other groups a powerful tool for asserting similar claims of access to any desert lands where the remotest trace of a previous roadway can be found.

Opponents to the action assert that the canyon is, “a perennial stream with one of the highest spring-fed volumes in the Mojave,” and is in addition, “very narrow and constrained through much of its length.”

They argue that permitting access to a canyon like this one would make any “hiking trail, wash bottom, streambed or little-used two-track” in the desert subject to similar inroads to use.

Surprise Canyon climbs up into the Panamint Mountains of Death Valley National Park. At lower elevations, it traverses a Bureau of Land Management Area of Critical Environmental Concern and enters the national park not far from the canyon’s source.

Most of the canyon is and has been on BLM lands for many years. In the early 1980s, Congress closed the surrounding area to vehicle traffic, with the exception of Surprise Canyon. It kept the canyon open as a designated route in recognition of its historic use as access to mining claims in the canyon’s upper reaches.

The original roadway had been engineered over some significant obstacles.

In 1984, a flood washed out the roadway and rendered the canyon route virtually impassable by any means. What little hobby mining had still been practiced on the claims at that time ceased altogether.

Another flood in 1990 made the access even more improbable, as forward progress in some places could only be made in the creek bed itself.

For the most part, only hikers could negotiate the canyon. However, in the early 1990s, people with highly modified off-road vehicles started to use the canyon as a challenge course. Even though the establishment of Death Valley as a national park in 1994 closed the canyon’s upper section, the extreme ORV activity could continue on the BLM land below due to the original “open route” designation.

According to the opposition group, progress up the canyon by even these specialty vehicles could only be made by severely altering the landscape. Trees and shrubs were cut out of the way, and rocks were rolled into ditches to create crossings.

The most extreme obstacles were steep rock walls where the canyon narrowed and the creek flowed as waterfalls. Off-roaders drove steel rods into the canyon walls in these areas to serve as anchors for winching their vehicles over the rocks.

Conservation groups brought suit against the BLM in 2000 to stop what they described as wanton destruction of an important water resource and desert habitat. They won and the area was closed temporarily to vehicular travel in 2002, and BLM was directed to conduct a formal environmental review of the matter. The results of this would, technically, determine the future scope of activities in the canyon.

Environmental Impact Statements of this sort include public hearings and can take some time to complete. Nevertheless, both off-roading and environmental groups have noted that five years without even nearing completion is an overly long delay in the process.

Off-roaders have, in the meantime, filed their claim in an effort to seek alternate authority to resume their activities in the canyon despite environmental protests and the BLM’s jurisdiction.

Roads left open under 19th century mining law

The off-roaders’ action is an R.S. 2477 claim.

Revised Statute 2477 (R.S. 2477) was included in an 1866 mining law to enable road development on public lands for the purposes of westward expansion.

It was repealed in 1976 with passage of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act. However, the repeal included a grandfather provision for routes previously established. According to the provision, old routes could be reestablished if the group pressing the claim could prove via documentation that a constructed roadway did exist previously and that it served as a public thoroughfare.

Many conflicts all over the West during the last 25 years have involved R.S. 2477 claims. As some parties, including certain states and counties, strive to open old roads over primitive roadways and in some cases lands designated as sensitive, other groups oppose the actions in an effort to protect natural resources.

The Surprise Canyon issue is, according to BLM District Manager of Resources Al Stein, a tricky one.

“We’ve never dealt with an issue like this one,” he admitted, and said the agency must adhere to its policies and procedures as it decides appropriate use for the area.

“Not so,” says Daniel Patterson, ecologist and southwest director for the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, one of the groups seeking to intervene in the 2477 claim.

“They (BLM) can close the area to this kind of use if they want,” he insisted.

Pointing out that as “the most productive riparian area in the Mojave Desert, Surprise Canyon meets every legal standard for land-use protection,” he scorned as waste the use of any public time on even debating the canyon’s fate.

“If Surprise Canyon falls to this 2477 claim,” he warned, “any place in the Southwest could be forced open to similar destructive uses.”
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Old 11-30-2006, 03:29 PM   #8 (permalink)
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The article slants toward minority peoples not coming to parks, but this is interesting:

Quote:
By the service's own reckoning, visits to national parks have been on a downward slide for 10 years. Overnight stays fell 20 percent between 1995 and 2005, and tent camping and backcountry camping each decreased nearly 24 percent during the same period.
Maybe people don't go to Nat parks because there's nothing fun to do. Nat parks used to be a place where you could get away from the constant supervision you find in cities. There's so many limitations, rules and regulations nowdays, you might as well just go to Six Flags. At least they have flush toilets.

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Old 11-30-2006, 04:46 PM   #9 (permalink)
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visits to national parks have been on a downward slide for 10 years
That's a surprise. In California, it seems that there are more and more people in the Parks. It may be perception though. Just like our 4-wheeling, as there are less and lees places to camp (less open camping), there are more and more people concentrated into smaller areas, decreasing the opportunities for a "wilderness" experience.
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Old 12-01-2006, 05:55 AM   #10 (permalink)
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This gives a little more weight to the feeling that Blue Ribbon really isn't there for us.......wonder who thier really there for?

Brian Hawthorne of the Idaho-based Blue Ribbon Coalition, which represents off-road enthusiasts, said the disputes are real and must be resolved to clarify where vehicles are permitted.

Hawthorne said he'd prefer to see the conflicts settled outside court: A New Mexico congressman last month proposed legislation that would allow states or counties to gain title by producing any official map or survey made before 1976. But Hawthorne conceded that passage was unlikely.

"We are looking at a monumental battle over each and every one of these roads," said Hawthorne, whose group has not taken a stance on Surprise Canyon.
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Old 12-01-2006, 10:16 AM   #11 (permalink)
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ive never been good @ politics even @ a young age in school. and so for some reason i still dont understand the motive behind all the political B.S. that seems to go around.
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Old 12-01-2006, 12:22 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Here's the Earthjustice Press Release from yesterday:



Death Valley National Park Threatened by Damaging Off-Road Vehicle Use

Off-road enthusiasts seek to open protected parkland

November 30, 2006


Washington, DC -- A broad coalition of conservation groups represented by Earthjustice is fighting to prevent extreme off-road use of a fragile stream in Death Valley National Park.

The groups filed intervention papers November 9 in a federal court case that would open Surprise Canyon to off-road vehicles -- an action that would damage the canyon's unique character, including waterfalls, towering cottonwoods and lush willows.

The original suit was filed last month by off-road interests who claim that the canyon's sheer walls and creek bed are a "constructed highway'' to which off-roaders have a right-of-way under a repealed, Civil War-era law known as R.S. 2477.

"This is a law that was passed a year after Lincoln was assassinated and repealed 30 years ago, and its dead hand is still haunting the protection of our national parks," said Ted Zukoski, a Denver staff attorney with Earthjustice. "What they are attempting to do is to undermine protection of this miracle -- a river running through the desert."

Although Utah "has really been the epicenter of this debate," Zukoski added, " the California desert is becoming another area where those seeking to undermine protection of wildlife habitat and wildlands are using this ancient law."

Over the last 30 years, some Western states, counties and off-road vehicle groups have alleged that hiking trails, wash bottoms, streambeds and little-used two-tracks meet the standard for a "constructed highway" under the law.

Congress and federal land managers have recognized Surprise Canyon's incredible values for decades. In the 1980's the Bureau of Land Management designated the lower portion of the canyon as an "Area of Critical Environmental Concern." In 1994, Congress added the upper portion of the canyon to Death Valley National Park and designated the area surrounding the canyon as wilderness. In a compromise, Congress left a narrow strip of land through the canyon out of wilderness in order to permit vehicle access to century-old mining claims at the top of the canyon although a major flood had washed out the old dirt road in 1984. No mining has taken place in Surprise Canyon since then.

In the 1990s, highly modified 4-wheel drive vehicles began to scale the canyon. To do this, the drivers cut down plants and trees, filled in portions of the stream bed with rocks and used winches to pull vehicles up near-vertical waterfalls. A number of vehicles overturned when trying to negotiate the waterfalls and other steep terrain, dumping oil and other pollutants into the stream.

"The BLM should have never allowed this kind of extreme off-road vehicle use in Surprise Canyon to occur," said Geary Hund of The Wilderness Society. "It pollutes the stream, damages habitat, scares off wildlife and degrades the wilderness."

In 2000, conservation groups sued the Bureau of Land Management for failing to evaluate the impact of off-road

"Death Valley is a national park-not a playground for off-road vehicles," said Howard Gross, program manager for the National Parks Conservation Association. "The public shouldn't be forced to see Surprise Canyon's tremendous natural values destroyed by a handful of off-road vehicle users, especially when there are so many off-roading opportunities available elsewhere in the Mojave desert."

In 2000, conservation groups sued the Bureau of Land Management for failing to evaluate the impact of off-road vehicle use and other management policies on endangered wildlife. As a result of a 2001 settlement, the BLM closed the route through Surprise Canyon, pending such analysis. The National Park Service closed the upper portion of the Canyon to vehicles in 2002.

Since then, Surprise Canyon has experienced a remarkable recovery. Cottonwoods and willows trees are flourishing and rare species such as desert bighorn sheep are thriving. Endangered birds such as the Inyo California towhee have returned to the canyon after decades of absence.

"Preserving this rare desert stream and the web of life it supports is critical to the recovery of the Inyo California Towhee and the conservation of other imperiled species such as the Panamint Alligator Lizard," said Chris Kassar, a wildlife biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity. "Allowing off-roaders back into Surprise Canyon will set back recovery by decades by increasing soil erosion and polluting the waters of the creek."

Because Surprise Canyon is narrow and constrained though much of its length, it is not possible to resume off-road vehicle use without causing substantial adverse impacts to the creek, water resources and other natural resources and to the area's wilderness character.

"Surprise Canyon is on a path to natural restoration. It was torn up and damaged. Now, it's thriving with plants and wildlife," said Tom Budlong of the Sierra Club. "When you visit the canyon you feel like you are again in national park and wilderness, not at an extreme off-roading site. We need to keep it that way."

Conservation groups joining in the motion are the National Parks Conservation Association, Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, California Wilderness Coalition and The Wilderness Society.

Contact:

Ted Zukowski, Earthjustice, (303) 623-9466

http://www.earthjustice.org/news/pre...e.html?print=t
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Old 12-01-2006, 03:04 PM   #13 (permalink)
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i think as the # of baby boomers and elderly keep growing so will the amount of self proclaimed "enviromentalists" and its supporters, along with the continueing B.S. scare of global warming even though its proven bunk, sheeple are a dime a dozen and the enviro clubs have the tatics to get the money.
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Old 12-03-2006, 09:07 AM   #14 (permalink)
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From...
http://www.sbsun.com/news/ci_4763866

From just this morning...

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Quote:

A classic clash over canyon

Andrew Silva, Staff Writer
San Bernardino County SunArticle Launched:12/03/2006 12:00:00 AM PST



SURPRISE CANYON - David Bricker first rode up this narrow, lush canyon bordered by desert wilderness just outside Death Valley on a small Honda-90 dirt bike in 1969.

A passable gravel road through the verdant canyon up a mountainside in Inyo County was first established in the 1870s as access to the silver-mining town of Panamint City, situated nearly 4,000 feet above the valley floor.

Today the canyon is at the center of a classic preservation-versus-use conflict, like many that have erupted across the Mojave Desert for the past two decades.

Closed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to off-highway vehicles in 2001 as part of a legal settlement with environmentalists, the canyon is the subject of a new suit by recreational off-roaders and people who have bought property in the ghost town and now want road access to their land.

The emotional conflict is spelled out inside a phone-book sized, red-metal box at the floor of the canyon in a spot overlooking the gurgling creek a few feet below. Hikers can sign in and leave comments.

"It's beautiful. Keep the vehicles out," one hiker wrote.

"No vehicles. No way," another entry reads.

"Open the canyon to everyone. Vehicles too," wrote another.

For those seeking to drive up the canyon, the matter centers on the government keeping its 150-year-old promise that private property owners are entitled to have access to their own land.

Environmentalists argue the canyon is a unique resource that deserves to be protected.

"There are thousands of miles of routes and hundreds of thousands of acres for off-road vehicle use," said Howard Gross of the National Parks Conservation Association. "Only a handful of people want access to Surprise Canyon. It might be fun to draw a mustache on Mount Rushmore, but most people would find that behavior inappropriate and insulting."

It's one of the wettest, lushest canyons in the Panamint Range, the mountains that mark the western boundary of one of the driest places on Earth.

From the days when a small motorcycle or a pickup truck could make it to the remote town, the area has changed. And over the past 130 years, it's undergone remarkable transformations with several boom-and-bust cycles - each boom interrupted by one of the roaring gully washers that wiped out mining operations.

Back in the canyon the day before Thanksgiving, the 50-year-old Bricker this time sported a backpack instead of a motorcycle helmet as he, his 18-year-old son and a friend scrambled through heavy brush and down tricky waterfalls as they neared the end of a multi-day camping trip to the historic ghost town.

The string of several cascading waterfalls, tucked between sculpted white granite walls, were once buried under tons of gravel. The falls were uncovered in 1984 by a huge storm that also flushed out the road and ended the most recent mining effort.

Half-buried rusting hulks of trucks and mining equipment dot the rugged canyon floor, entombed testaments to the power of a desert cloudburst.

Instead of a road, there's now a challenging hiking trail requiring tough stretches of bushwhacking, some brief rock-climbing moves, and splashing through inch-deep water in the middle of the creek.

"I have mixed feelings," said Bricker, who grew up in Southern California before moving to New York 20 years ago but never losing his fascination with Death Valley and the surrounding desert.

As he adjusted his pack straps, standing in a spot that was relatively wide at about 50 feet, he explained: "I'm ecology-minded at heart, but this habitat isn't much different from other habitats in the Panamints."

After the great flood of 1984, the only vehicles that could get up the canyon were the hardiest Jeeps and other four-wheel-drive vehicles equipped with winches.

And while there are many other canyons in the Panamints open to off-road recreation, by the 1990s, Surprise Canyon had become legendary among extreme off-roaders.

Winches mounted on the rigs hoisted the vehicles up the steep, rocky waterfalls.

Large rocks were maneuvered into the creek to fill in impassable gaps.

The challenging nature of the route isn't the reason for the lawsuit, plaintiffs contend.

"It's not the off-roading; it's the destination," said Bryan Lollich, a 32-year-old Colorado Springs, Colo., resident who bought land in Panamint City after the closure in 2001. "Everyone that's driven up that road has fallen in love with Panamint City."

Even when the canyon was closed, the BLM promised to give those who owned property in the ghost town a key to the newly erected gate.

More than five years later, that hasn't happened.

"These groups want to see all that history preserved. Without the off-highway vehicle crowd, it's not going to be preserved," Lollich said by phone from his Colorado home.

When Death Valley was upgraded and expanded from a national monument to a national park in 1994, the route through Surprise Canyon was designated a "cherry stem," meaning the 60-foot-wide right-of-way was specifically omitted from the new wilderness area through which it runs.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who shepherded the California Desert Protection Act through Congress in 1994, supported the "cherry stem" at the time because there were valid mining claims in Panamint City and it was unknown if mining would resume.

But in a December 2005 letter, she and California's junior senator, Democrat Barbara Boxer, also urged officials to close the canyon to vehicles permanently.

"However, it is our understanding that no mining activity has taken place for decades and it appears that the current land owners have no interest in mining. Consequently, recreational off-roading in Surprise Canyon should not be viewed as an authorized activity under the California Desert Protection Act," the senators wrote.

Environmentalists charge that the off-roaders bought property in the abandoned town only to give them legal leverage to force the canyon open.

That's irrelevant, plaintiffs and their attorney said, because the government cannot bar access to someone's private property.

"Congress granted rights to counties and the public on these roads, and the federal government can't take them away," Wyoming attorney Karen Budd-Falen said.

Separate from the lawsuits, the BLM and the National Park Service are nearing the end of an environmental-review process to decide what to do with the canyon.

The environmental-impact statement is due out before spring and will analyze several options.

Surprise Canyon could remain closed. It could be reopened to vehicles. It could be opened to vehicles with tight restrictions on how far up they can go or how many could go at a time.

Lollich, the Panamint City property owner, said access all the way up must be allowed.

For environmentalists, the choice is stark.

"Water in the desert is so rare & . It's a blessing. It sort of feels like you're cheating," said Gross of the National Parks Conservation Association, a nonprofit group that has applied to intervene in the off-roaders' suit.

As he strode up the steep trail bordered by lush vegetation with clear water splashing over the rocks, he spread his arms and asked: "This is going to be a highway?"

Standing among the cottonwoods and willows, one can look out over the nearly barren Panamint Valley, a striking contrast.

In the dry language of the BLM's environmental assessment that accompanied the 2001 closure, an official wrote: "The diversity of vegetative communities in Surprise Canyon contribute to providing niches for a diverse wildlife community, `perhaps one of the most diverse and significant in the California Desert Conservation Area."'

With bighorn sheep, the Panamint alligator lizard and endangered birds thriving on the perennial water and the oasis of vegetation, allowing vehicles back in the canyon would damage a rare and fragile ecosystem, environmentalists argue.

Bigger species seem more common in the canyon since the closure, they say.

"We saw a bighorn (sheep)," said Samantha Raven, 30, of San Raphael as she and a friend descended from spending a night at Panamint City, which she loved.

"(The trail) was really tough," said her companion, Chuck Collingwood, 50, also of San Raphael, who added he also likes to go four-wheeling. "But I have a little trouble with a road through a stream."

Another set of hikers that same day said they would love to be able to ride their motorcycles up the canyon, and that it should be reopened before the overgrowth made it absolutely impassable.

"Riders are respectful of the trail," said Alisha Young, 36, of Santa Rosa.

Rebuilding the road to its pre-1984 condition probably won't get serious consideration, said Richard Crowe, a land-use planner in the BLM's Ridgecrest office and the leader for the environmental-impact statement.

There are other canyons with water in the Panamints, so species do have other options, Crowe said, but the canyon's relative importance to the desert web of life is one of the questions being examined.

A 2004 study of snails and other invertebrates, some of which are unique to that part of the Mojave, warned that off-road vehicles in Surprise Canyon could harm species directly and also upset the cycle of regrowth that follows flash floods.

Those who want vehicle access restored counter that the occasional Jeep can safely coexist with the plants and animals.

When the road was open, about 100 vehicles per year would take the difficult trip up the canyon, which still required trees, cattails and other plants to be cut down.

Environmentalists allege the vehicles have overturned and spilled toxic engine fluids into the stream.

"I don't know of any documentation that oil or gas or antifreeze has caused a die-off," the BLM's Crowe said.

Just to add another wrinkle, the creek is also eligible for protection as a wild and scenic river. But only Congress can make that designation.

Derham Giuliani, a 75-year-old retired biologist from the eastern Sierra town of Big Pine, was on his first trip into the canyon since the road disappeared two decades ago.

Standing at one of the waterfalls where the canyon is 20 feet wide, he marveled that any vehicles could get up there.

"I'd prefer it be closed," he said. "A riparian area like this is rare in the desert. I don't see how they could put a road back."

Bricker said he was worried more about preserving Panamint City.

"It wouldn't be as pristine, but on the positive side, you could preserve the best relics of the area," he said. "In 35 years, I'd like (my son) Noah to be able to bring his son and show him."

Bricker would like to see access for motor vehicles restored, which would allow maintenance of the aging historic buildings in Panamint City.

"It's hard to carry 4-by-8 sheets of plywood on your back," he said. "The off-roaders I know don't look at the falls as a challenge; they're trying to get to Panamint City."

The ghost town is within the boundaries of Death Valley National Park, and the park doesn't have the money or people to keep up the buildings there, said Terry Baldino, spokesman for the park. The only other way to access the town, besides the long, difficult hike, is by helicopter, he said.
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Old 12-17-2006, 07:23 AM   #15 (permalink)
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From...
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Quote:
Sunday, December 17, 2006
Off-roaders, environmentalists fight for canyon near Death Valley
GILLIAN FLACCUS - The Associated Press

BALLARAT, Calif. -- Whoever named Surprise Canyon got it right. Mere miles from bone-dry Death Valley, the canyon cradles two unexpected jewels within its soaring, whitewashed walls: a gushing mountain stream and what's left of a once-bustling silver mining town.

These treasures have attracted visitors for decades -- and now they're at the heart of a legal battle between two modern foes, off-road drivers and environmentalists.

Five years ago environmentalists successfully sued to get the narrow canyon and its spring-fed waterfalls closed to vehicles. In response, more than 80 off-roaders purchased tiny pockets of private property at the top of the federally owned canyon and are suing for access to the land.

To buttress their case, the off-roaders have dusted off a Civil War-era mining law that places the public access rights of local governments and private individuals above the rights of the federal government. The tussle in this remote California corner is one of several recent cases that, if successful, could unlock thousands of miles of roads in federally protected parks around the West that are off-limits to motorized vehicles.

The fight over Surprise Canyon boils down to a central question: What is more important, the rights of private property owners or the protection of a fragile desert oasis?

A coalition of environmental groups allege that before 2001, off-roaders destroyed the canyon by cutting trees, stacking boulders in the water and using steel winches to haul their Jeeps up a series of near-vertical waterfalls. They are now seeking to intervene in the off-roaders' lawsuit.

"It's almost unbelievable what's up there. It's precious, it's pristine," said Tom Budlong, an environmental activist who regularly hikes the canyon about 200 miles northeast of his Los Angeles home. "I shudder to think of the extreme four-wheelers getting back into the canyon and making a road where there is now no road."

There once was a road -- a 130-year-old gravel tollway that was washed away by flash floods nearly two decades ago. Undeterred, off-roaders continued to drive up the canyon to reach the ghost town, which includes easily explorable mine shafts, the remains of a smelter, some mine carts and a few cabins.

Kicked out by the settlement in 2001, they bought several acres of privately owned land -- some with cabins -- in an attempt to gain access. The canyon grows from an arid plain just north of the one-house desert outpost of Ballarat and climbs 3,700 feet over five miles to Panamint City, now a crumbling ghost town inside Death Valley National Park.

The narrow gorge's gurgling stream pours over seven waterfalls and winds its way between quartz cliffs. Thick stands of willows and cottonwood trees, their leaves golden yellow as winter approaches, cluster around the stream as flycatchers flit from branch to branch.

Less common birds have been spotted since the area was closed to off-roaders, notably the endangered Inyo California towhee, said Chris Kassar, an Arizona-based biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity. Other sensitive species such as the Panamint daisy and the Panamint alligator lizard are also flourishing, she said.

Kassar and others believe the canyon's ecosystem could crumble if the off-roaders prevail in the current lawsuit, filed in August in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. The off-roaders believe that under an 1866 mining law, the public right-of-way in the canyon remains although the road is long gone.

"The issue is not off-roading and environmental issues. The legal issue is access," said plaintiffs' attorney Karen Budd-Falen. "If the road was once there and it's eroded out it's still a public access. The fact that it has been flooded out doesn't make the legal issue go away."

Similar arguments are also being used in right-of-way lawsuits brought by states, counties and private citizens elsewhere in the West.

In 2004, San Juan County in Utah sued the National Park Service, claiming that a creek in Canyonlands National Park had once been a county road dating back to the 1890s. Environmental groups have also sought to intervene in that case, which is now before the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Inyo County recently sued the same agency over four unmaintained dirt roads in Death Valley National Park and San Bernardino County sued over 14 roads in the Mojave National Preserve. Both suits allege the roads were county property before the federal government closed them.

Other states and counties from Alaska to Montana have surveyed and identified thousands of miles of roads currently on federal land that might be subject of similar claims.

The off-roaders, however, say they aren't trying to set a legal precedent -- they just want to visit their property and explore the old mining ruins.

"I respect what was there and I want it to be there for my kids to see," said Dale Walton, a member of the Bakersfield Trailblazers off-roading club and a property owner.

"I resent people who go in and destroy things, but I resent more people that say, 'You just can't go in there because we don't want you to go in there."'
Also found here...
Off-roaders fight ecos for Calif. canyon
http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/nation...ng_Rights.html

And about 70 other outlets worldwide...

kris.
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Old 12-18-2006, 12:43 AM   #16 (permalink)
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the one above is on yahoo now

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20061217/...roading_rights
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Old 12-18-2006, 09:56 AM   #17 (permalink)
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Do a Google News search. Count is over 100 now.

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Old 12-19-2006, 08:57 AM   #18 (permalink)
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Old 12-20-2006, 02:44 PM   #19 (permalink)
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Herd a spot on Rush L. Radio show about it this morning He was giving a thumb's up to the off roading people fightint the ECO freeks
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Old 12-20-2006, 03:12 PM   #20 (permalink)
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We've had a number of people visit the fopv website and issue support for us. One whako.

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Old 12-20-2006, 03:27 PM   #21 (permalink)
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I wouldn't doubt if the Eco freeks planted the fwaking the willow trees out there just to make the trail overgrown. one or 2 branches from a willow can make quite a jungle in no time flat. Are willows a native tree out there.
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Old 12-21-2006, 02:44 PM   #22 (permalink)
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Are willows a native tree out there.
YES. Along with Ocotillo and Tamarisk brush. You won't see 'em in the flats, but they pretty much fill the canyons.

For those that haven't been in the area, there's about a dozen canyons in a row there, each pretty much similar from ecology perspective. As well, just over the ridge is Saline Valley, which is a lot better for hikers.

As yet I've never seen a hiker in that area, although I usually go in April on the way to my annual trip to Vegas for a tradeshow.
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Old 12-21-2006, 03:14 PM   #23 (permalink)
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Heres what Mr. Limbaugh has to say about it...

Quote:
Say people, a great ideological battle of our time is taking place over a little patch of land. Five years ago, environmentalist wackos picked a fight with off-road drivers who enjoyed riding their vehicles in Surprise Canyon – which lies near Death Valley.

A successful mining town once operated at the canyon, which is home to a waterfall and a gushing mountain stream. The wackos sued – and they won – and the canyon was declared off-limits to off-road vehicles.

Normally, that’s end of story. But in this case, 80 or so off-riders began purchasing small parcels of land atop the canyon. Now … they’re suing the federal government – for access to their property. The basis of their suit is a Civil-War-era mining law putting the rights of the feds behind public-access rights of local governments and private individuals.

The wackos, they're demanding they be allowed to intervene in the off-roader’s lawsuit – claiming the canyon will be destroyed if the property owners prevail. Typical BS.

It may be years before the case is resolved, but it’s being watched closely: the fate of thousands of acres of land in the West – declared off-limits to property owners by overzealous liberals – may hang in the balance.

Win or lose, you off-roaders are fighting the good fight. You didn’t just lay down and get run over by these wackos; you used their favorite weapon against them – the courts – to give them a surprise they’ll never forget. To which I say: Ride – on!
Thank you Rush !

Just a side note from me...
This lawsuit is not about "off-roaders".
This lawsuit is about a 132 year old COUNTY ROAD and the valid existing rights of the public and private property owners to access the land in and around Panamint City on that COUNTY ROAD.

kris.
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Old 12-21-2006, 04:05 PM   #24 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Screwzer2 View Post
YES. Along with Ocotillo and Tamarisk brush. You won't see 'em in the flats, but they pretty much fill the canyons.

For those that haven't been in the area, there's about a dozen canyons in a row there, each pretty much similar from ecology perspective. As well, just over the ridge is Saline Valley, which is a lot better for hikers.

As yet I've never seen a hiker in that area, although I usually go in April on the way to my annual trip to Vegas for a tradeshow.
Willows may be native but Tamarisk are an invasive species from North Africa. Ocotillos don't like closed in canyons. edit: To be more specific, Tamarisk love water and will choke a spring to death. No water, no Tamarisk. Ocotillo actually like open flats. I've never seen a canyon full of Ocotillos.

Saline Valley, if anything is across the valley and over a ridge and north.

Hikers are prevalent all over the Panamint Range. I don't doubt that you don't see them as you DRIVE from whereever to Las Vegas but they are everywhere. I talk with them at many trailheads.

As for Saline Valley being better than the Panamint Range for hikers, I really don't understand what you might be trying to say here.

Other than those "few" things, a great post, thanks for contributing. I'm really not trying to start a debate, this is not the thread for it. I just don't want to let mis-information go either.
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Old 04-13-2007, 10:37 PM   #25 (permalink)
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Thanks everyone for posting up the info, I had the chance to go up Panamint Valley about a year before it was closed and I foolishly turned it down. .

Good luck to all in getting this open again.


Edit: I know it is an older post, but wanted to bring it back up.

Double edit: It seems to be my night for pulling up old posts, but this one is important. Does anyone have any updates on this.
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