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Endangered Desert Plant May No Longer Threaten Off-Roaders


Pumpkin Pilot
Staff member
Elite Explorer
February 8, 1999
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City, State
Wayoutin, Aridzona
Year, Model & Trim Level
'93 XL Pumpkin Edition
Endangered Desert Plant May No Longer Threaten Off-Roaders

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) will consider removing the Peirson's milk-vetch plant from the Endangered Species list. The plant, which is found only in portions of the Algodones Dunes in California 's Imperial Valley , has been at the center of legal battles for a number of years. The so-called Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area (ISDRA) is managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and is a popular destination for off-highway vehicle (OHV) recreation. Access to large portions of the 160,000 acres site has been restricted in order to protect the plant.

The American Sand Association (ASA), the Off-Road Business Association (ORBA) and other OHV groups have repeatedly questioned the government's contention that the plant is threatened by OHV activity, or is even an endangered species. The groups initially petitioned FWS to delist the Peirson's milk-vetch in 2001; however the agency ruled that at the time the plant still warranted protection. In their most recent petition the groups assert that four years of additional data collection show that there are more milk-vetch plans than in 2001 and that the plant's reproductive capacity is stable and strong enough to warrant delisting. The groups also cited a BLM report which stated that only an estimated 0.3% of the plants showed evidence of OHV damage. The FWS will initiate a yearlong status review, after which the agency could propose that the plant be delisted.

The controversy surrounding the status of the Peirson's milk-vetch highlights the need to reform the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Enacted in 1973, the ESA has saved only 10 species out of 1,800 listings. Meanwhile, millions of acres of land have been closed with more set-asides in the works. The SAN supports legislation before Congress that calls for increased local involvement and the use of best scientific data in determining the status of a species.

The FWS regional office in Carlsbad, California is accepting public comments on the plant's status until January 30, 2006.